Why Uber Is Not Generating Employment – Contrary To What They Preach

It’s not a surprise that driverless cars will have a significant impact on employment rates, not only in the United States, but also throughout the world. Within the motor vehicle industry, there are hundreds of thousands of employees working within the sector – from manufacturing to driving services. In fact, almost 3% of working Americans are drivers of some sort, whether they are truck drivers or taxi drivers, bus drivers or in parcel delivery service.

Yes, it is true that driverless car technology is expected and predicted to reduce labor costs, fuel costs, and the overall rate of accidents, but it will also be a complete disaster for the entire driving and motor vehicle industry. Automation will have a significant impact on this business.

So, when Uber claims to be helping in generating employment through the addition of more drivers, we are looking at their offering from a very short-term and near sighted perspective. Yes, Uber has stated that they generated 1million jobs in 2015 alone, but what will happen when driverless cars and automation come into play?

This has already begun. Last year, Uber dispatched the first fleet of driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh; although they are currently being supervised by humans in the passenger seat. Just as is the case with Tesla and their driverless technology, driverless cars and trucks are already being released – and it’s happening sooner than most realize.

I have a significant issue with companies like Uber who claim and promote the idea of generating employment, when this is truly not their ultimate objective. In fact, the majority of Uber drivers are currently using their own vehicles to get passengers from point A to point B. This means that the company itself is making money – a great deal of it – off the backs of drivers. Uber drivers are using their own means of transportation with their own fuel at extremely competitive rates, to build Uber’s brand, a business that is very deceitfully trying to convince employees that they are focused on improving their lives and keeping them involved in the company long term.

It is time to open our eyes and be aware of the end goal of companies like Uber. Yes, the concept is simple and straightforward, and yes, the concept of automation in vehicles will be coming to us quicker than we might expect, but we need to be aware of the messages that Uber is spreading and make our own decisions and considerations before believing that the company is actually prioritizing the lives of its employees. Government needs to intervene in creating legislation to save these jobs; in certain sectors and for certain services we are simply better served by fellow humans.

Why Illegal Immigration Poses a Threat to the United States and Europe

With Donald Trump’s immigration ban, there have been many questions and topics of conversations that have started. There are two sides to this argument, as is the case with many points of contention. One side of the argument suggests that the ban is not ethical, and that the United States should be open to anyone and everyone. The other side of the argument states that illegal immigration should be cracked down on – that the lack of proper immigration and government due process will have a negative long-term impact on the United States, and other countries that are at risk of doing the same.

When it comes to illegal immigration, my concern lies in the future of the United States and Europe as it relates to employment and cultural values. Having improper integration into the country that an immigrant is joining could pose long term risk to the employment structure and culture. I will break it down into two different perspectives.

When it comes to unemployment, the US is currently at a rate of 4.9%. This means that the US government needs to have a proper integration system for newcomers. If there is not a proper system in place, unemployment rate will increase significantly as will the underground economy of the labor market, also affecting the safety in the workplace. Immigrants need to be aware of employment opportunities available, receive proper formation through vocational schools, so they may integrate easily into the new country systems.

When it comes to cultural values, it is extremely important to introduce new immigrants to a country’s cultural system. Whether it is best practices for navigating cities, different religions within various cities, how politics come into play, and more; it is integral to the success of new-comers to know how various systems work. Without this education, immigrants will be overwhelmed, will find it difficult to integrate, and create ethnic hamlets causing havoc for existing residents.

It is clear that illegal immigration poses a threat to countries like the United States and Europe. The European Union is currently in the middle of a migration crisis. We know that migration is influenced by a combination of economic, political and social factors, yet countries need to be aware of the impact that such illegal migration could pose on their countries. From employment risks to culture, it is important to be aware of the impact that illegal immigration has on various countries, the loss of safety and security that it causes.

How The Cruise Industry Is Skipping on Taxes

There are two things in life that are certain – death, and paying taxes. Whether you are a large corporation or a citizen living in a small town that you know and love, we all pay taxes each and every year. Yet, there is one industry that has question marks surrounding their financials and end of year books, and the United States government isn’t doing much about it.

This industry is the maritime – or cruise – industry. When it was uncovered that Carnival Corporation was avoiding the payment of taxes in the United States, it raised concerns. You see, Carnival Corporation is headquartered in Florida, yet the company is legally incorporated in Panama. By incorporating in Panama and registering its ships in this third world country, the company avoids paying taxes and wages in the USA. Yet, Carnival benefits from a plethora of resources from their headquartered state of Florida and other States and Cities that their cruise ship docks in. The company uses the resources of the USA Coast Guard, Customs, Border Protection, the FBI and more.

If this raises question marks above your head, too, you’re certainly not alone. Attorney Jim Walker of Cruise Law News has been seeking an answer to this question for quite some time, wondering whether companies like Carnival pays its fair share of taxes. Similarly, the New York Times took aim at Carnival back in 2011.

Surprisingly, next to nothing has come of it. Though this seeming act of tax evasion has struck a cord with such Attorneys and large news publications, as above, the government is turning a blind eye at this act. The argument is that companies working in the maritime or cruise industries are global in nature, meaning that they could potentially be paying taxes around the world, or so their CEO Micky Arison says. Yet, those who take cruises for leisure are primarily from the USA, and since the company is headquartered in the State of Florida, this argument has little to no support.

It is clear that the United State Government needs to pay attention to what is taking place in the maritime and cruise industries. With the primary mode of business being in the USA, it is unfair for tax payers and other businesses within the United States being tax paying, law abiding citizens or corporations, while companies like Carnival reaps the benefits of questionable business behavior year over year.

How Donald Trump Is Running The Country Like a Business Person

When Donald Trump was inaugurated as the President of the United States, the country seemed divided in feedback and acceptance; however, there were a plethora of American citizens who were excited about the move. Not only has President Trump made great promises as the Leader of the United States, he has hopes, dreams and passion to make great change for the country.

President Trump is a Leader who will bring business acumen and a great deal of knowledge to the United States. As a successful businessperson, President Trump and his experience with the business community will help the USA in returning to one of success.

In addition, President Trump has already proven that he is and will continue to be quick to take action. He has already taken the very first step and ordered a freeze on all new regulations coming out of federal agencies. He has also promised to begin reviewing and potentially make sweeping changes to Obamacare, a major point of communication and policy promises while he was on the path to becoming President. Additionally, and perhaps the most popular change, he placed a bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office on his very first day on the job.

The sweeping changes already made in the first months of Presidency is unlike anything we have ever seen with past Presidents. With Presidents who have taken a seat in the oval office, it has taken months – if not years – to make policy changes and updates.

These changes are being made primarily because of President Trump’s vast experience in business and negotiation. As someone who has had a great deal of success in the business realm, President Trump is a confident individual who is keen to negotiate at the table of any leader within the Free World. It is clear that he has made these changes from the seat of a CEO, with a perspective that we have not seen from any other past sitting President.

As an individual who is successful in negotiation tactics, President Trump is certain to make great, sweeping changes in the USA over the next four years. It was time for a fresh perspective and a new change. While President Trump was met with uncertainty since November, the time since his inauguration has made the country feel positive and excited at the prospect of what is to come, especially when it comes to the future of the United States of America.

When Will Passwords & Pins Disappear?

Will Pins and Passwords Die?

When Apple first introduced the touch ID security, there was a lot of skepticism about the new process. Who has access to these finger prints? What was wrong with typing in a password? Who came up with this? Will this be secure? Can this be used against me?

Some individuals still have these sentiments, but almost three years later, most of us don’t even give a second thought about unlocking our phones with our fingerprint. Apple didn’t invent biometrics, but they certainly aided in the mass acceptance of it.

A bill was drafted three years ago that proposed a new federal government-issued ID card. It would contain biometric information such as fingerprints.

“At the most basic, biometrics can be best explained by breaking down the word: bio, as in biological; and metric, as in measurement. That is to say, biometrics are biological measurements. Thanks to the unique nature of many of these measurements, biometrics are particularly suited for identification. Fingerprints, facial measurements, the patterns that your veins make and even the way you walk — all of these characteristics and more are unique to you and you only.”

The card would be needed to authenticate the user’s identity and have their working status and history. Drafters ultimately decided to drop the bill, possibly because there are about 8 million undocumented individuals in the U.S. workforce.

Fingerprint ID’s are just a fraction of the possibilities of biometric technology. I used to believe face recognition was only for James Bond characters, but who knew we would have the same technology illustrated in the 1980’s A View to Kill at our 9–5’s. Many businesses have transitioned from old school paper time keeping and have adopted automated biometric timekeeping systems like Clockwise. There is so much more behind this science then IPhones and secret spies. Biometric technology has capabilities ranging from voiceprint biometrics to invisible biometrics that can measure and track the way you type and use your mouse.

“Apple is reportedly working on sophisticated facial biometrics, and Canada is testing facial recognition technology at its border patrol stations.”

I predict that in 2016 the use of passwords and pins will drastically decrease. As biometric technology advances, the public perception continues to accept the changes it brings. Biometrics has claimed their stance in our every day lives. In 2015, biometric technology made nearly $15 billion in the global market and is estimated to reach $41.5 billion by 2020. The health care industry has begun to integrate this technology in their practices. It eliminates security problems and human error possibilities such as “overlays” (when someone’s records are placed in another’s file).

It may take more time before passwords and pins are completely eradicated, but we are moving closer to them being used interchangeably. The general public isn’t as skeptical to log in to a device with a fingerprint as they were three years ago. Many would actually prefer it because it saves time, it adds another level of protection, and for its accuracy. Biometrics isn’t a trend, it’s the new way of security in this digital age.

How Long Will the Visa & MasterCard Domination Last?

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Visa and Mastercard have dominated the payments industry for decades. In a 2015 Nilson Report, Visa and Mastercard represented more than 82% of the global market share for transactions worldwide. Visa and Mastercard charge a transaction fee on each transaction taking place through their cards. They also partner financial institutions and charge sizeable foreign exchange fees on global transactions.

The first credit card was issued by New York’s Franklin National Bank for loan customers way back in 1951. It was issued as a symbol of trust for credit worthy customers. Today the card industry has become more cut throat. Trust became a secondary issue compared with profit. After all, credit card loans are revolving industries with high profit margins for consumer banking. Financial institutions and payment systems have worked together and charged the consumers interests rates and a host of other fees.

For decades, payment system firms enjoyed an undisturbed market free from disruptive forces. Unlike the short messaging system (sms) industry which was disrupted by data messaging applciations, payment system firms have endured the onslught of payment applications such as Square and Paypal. The rise of mobile payments startups may well challenge the traditional card payment system. Indeed some startups offer card-less convenience as well as attractive data analytics for merchants.

And yet, Visa and Mastercard continue to grow their topline revenue. Given both new and traditional forms of payment are growing, perhaps there may be a complementary relationship between the two. Unlike the Uber versus black cabs in London, mobile payment applications are not necessarily disruptive to the payment ecosystem.

Online applications such as Paypal allow users to add credit cards as well as top up an e-wallet directly from banks. Many users continue to use credit cards as a complementary service to the new wave of payment applications online. After all, a standalone system is another form of security for suers. Users can always cancel the card once they feel that Paypal or another payment application has initiated an unauthorised transaction. For many of these users, convenience is the winning factor. With mobile applications, payment becomes a quicker and more enjoyable process. The 30 second wait for the POS terminal to dail up to the network is long compared to the Visa paywave transaction which can take mere seconds. When users add these cards into a new application such as Apple Pay or Liquid Pay, the transaction can be done in a matter of seconds.

For many mobile applications, payment is the first step. Alipay started with payments then moved into investment products, microfinance and trade. Payments bring in the critical mass. Today, users do far more including trading stocks. If they could top up their stock brokerage account, pay interst and commissions, select robo-advisors all within the same application, might more defect to such applications? Mobile payment applications might just be the start of a smarter financial ecosystem.

The victims of the disruption may emerge only in later phases of this growing market in mobile payments.

Pokémon Go Exposes the Friction Between Virtual Worlds and Reality

Pokémon Go is a free-to-play game for Android & iOS from Niantic. It’s an update of the massively popular and long-running Pokémon franchise, where players roam around a whimsical world collecting and training wildlife they force into lives of brutal combat. Except now, using GPS-enabled mobile phones, Pokémon Go replaces the fictional world with our own, sending nostalgia-heavy young adults rushing out to parks, shopping centers and other landmarks in search of virtual creatures.

Although the game has only been released in Australia, New Zealand and the US, developers are “pausing” release in other regions until the inevitable launch issues are resolved. However, players have found ways to enable and play the game in other regions, and popularity has skyrocketed.

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Mixed-Reality Games

Although it is primarily identified as an “Augmented Reality game,” Pokémon Go is actually an example of a “Mixed-Reality Game.” The key is the interweaving of a virtual game world. Real places develop additional meaning, so now your local lake may be a breeding ground for both real carp and virtual Squirtles.

Mixed-reality games are compelling because they give this new and exciting narrative layered over the mundane and everyday. Several Pokémon Go players have taken to Twitter to say how the game has had a positive impact on their mental health, by giving them a reason to get outside and get some exercise.

Back to Reality

However, mixed-reality does bring some issues, especially in games such as Pokémon Go that have a global scale. Obviously, Niantic has not visited every place that appears in the game to ensure its suitability and safety. It relies on data drawn from a third party, such as Google Maps, to identify landmarks and other physical attributes of the players’ vicinity. The reliability of such data sources is not perfect, and this leads to mix-ups and confusion.

For example, in the US, someone living in an old converted church has found his home routinely visited by Pokémon trainers since his home has been incorrectly tagged as a gym.

Position in Not Location

There is an issue for mixed-reality that these events highlight. Position is not location. Places have complex social and historical associations that are difficult for computers to understand beyond their latitude and longitude. In this way, we end up with Pokemon at war memorials across the world, including a holocaust museum in Florida and the 9/11 memorial in New York. These, and other missteps from the game are collected in the “Pokemorbid” Tumblr.

In 2002, while studying the mixed-reality game Botfighters, scholar Olli Sotamaa predicted that such games would run into trouble over the flat way technology understands locations in contrast to the rich way we experience them in the real world. Pointedly, he notes out that this is problematic where “in some cities the territorial organization can produce virtual no-go areas for certain groups of people depending on for example race, class or gender”. Sure enough, a Pokémon Go player has this week pointed out that the game could get them killed, as a black person “looking suspicious,” given the current political situation in the US.

While there is no doubt that Pokémon Go is a great game, and lots of fun, we should be prepared for more friction as the demands of the virtual world rub against the realities of the complex and socio-politically rich environment on which the game uncomfortably rests.

Ending the ISIS Ideology

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“Our thoughts and prayers are with them” is a line generally repeated by both Democrats and Republicans in the face of mass shootings, which have unfortunately become more or less routine in the U.S. The problem is, are thoughts and prayers enough as a reaction to mass shootings, suicide bombings, incidents of terror? Are we simply going to devote our thoughts and prayers, profile pictures and trending hashtags to the victims? Or are we actually going to do something concrete about it?

We need to tackle terrorism — not just militarily, but ideologically. I can guarantee that ordering all the fighter jets in the world to strike ISIS-held territory will not defeat ISIS. It may subdue ISIS temporarily, but it will not put a definitive end to the threat posed by ISIS. ISIS is a rouge organization that derives a lot of its support from painting a black-and-white worldview. It draws a lot of strength by promoting a takfiri ideology, an ideology in which they depict themselves to be rightly guided, and everyone else misguided and worthy of a death sentence.

ISIS will target anyone (and I mean anyone) who does not subscribe to their ideologies of spreading fear, hate, violence, and bloodshed. As an outlet of terror, ISIS depicts within its ranks something on the lines of “everyone is out to get us.” Ordering airstrikes on ISIS is the equivalent of adding fuel to the already-strong fire.

The problem is that most of the international community treats ISIS as a military nemesis, and not as an ideological foe. ISIS is not confined to any set borders — ISIS has been able to strike thousands of kilometers outside its territorial areas of control. Look at Paris. Look at Sinai. Look at Dhaka. Look at Orlando. All of them hundreds, if not thousands of kilometers away from the ISIS-controlled areas in Iraq and Syria. How has ISIS, a terrorist organization running a self-proclaimed state “caliphate” that is almost completely bankrupt and is severely underdeveloped managed to conduct terror attacks of such scale so far away from Raqqa?

The answer to that lies in the skillful use of modern technology to spread venomous propaganda dripping with hate into the minds of teenagers and young adults. I have yet to hear of the terrorists in terror attacks claimed by ISIS receiving funding and arms from ISIS. ISIS does not need to dole out funding or arms to anyone when they have inspired a whole bunch of mercenaries to conduct acts of terror in the name of their perverted version of Islam.

At this point, I believe that while the use of military action cannot be overruled (even if only to prevent ISIS making territorial advances), the need to counter ISIS ideologically is far greater than the need to counter ISIS militarily. For even if we magically manage to erase every trace of ISIS from the soil of Iraq and Syria, there will remain potentially thousands of lone-wolf terrorists/mercenaries across the globe, prepared to shed blood in the name of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s warped ideologies, at any time, at any place.

In 10 Years, We’ll Be Mining Asteroids for Minerals

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According to NASA, the mineral wealth found in the asteroid belt equals out to the equivalent of just about 100 billion dollars for every person on Earth today. That’s a lot of wealth, but more importantly, that’s a lot of resources .

If you aren’t aware, getting materials from planet Earth to outer space takes an extravagant amount of fuel, and that means an extravagant amount of money. To that end, by acquiring raw materials from space itself, we could develop a host of space structures (such as colonies or space stations) and even generate rocket fuel, which will ultimately be needed if we ever hope to explore and colonize our solar system in a way that is economically viable.

As Planetary Resources CEO Chris Lewicki asserts, “Whether it’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, the materials that we build things with, or ultimately, of course, the food that we eat…all of these things are available to us on this planet, but when we head into space, we have to bring all of it with us. That of course, isn’t very scalable.”

And to that end, NASA states that, in the 21st century, space exploration will be reliant upon what we can mine in the cosmos, “The metals and minerals found on asteroids will provide the raw materials for space structures, and comets will become the watering holes and gas stations for interplanetary spacecraft.”

A host of governments and private companies are already working on asteroid mining projects. Luxembourg recently established a €220 million fund for space mining projects; the United States signed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act into law, which recognizes the right of U.S. citizens to own asteroid resources. Private companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries have a number of technologies in production to help humanity mine the cosmos.

“People think that this is something that will be a century away, or maybe something that their grandkids might see,” Lewicki asserts, “but people already doing this. We already have two spacecrafts in orbit around asteroids, and in the first half of the 2020s, we anticipate that we will Planetary Resources will be touching on the surface of the nearest asteroid and extracting the first really demonstrable amount of asteroid resources on site.”

That’s 10 years until we’re mining our first asteroid. Of course, there are a lot of things that need to happen in order for this ten-year timeframe to be met, but we are well on our way.

The first concern is establishing clear regulations regarding asteroid mining. For example, who really owns asteroids, anyways? Can anyone just venture space with a flag and stake a claim?

Lewicki notes that, while such regulations will take some time to fully flesh out, we are already taking steps to cement laws regarding commercial operations in space: “The United States government has taken up this matter for the last couple of years, seeing how this industry was developing very rapidly. They created the first framework that identifies how we will deal with property rights, regulation, and ownership of things that are developed and obtained in space.”

This is the Commercial Space Competitiveness Launch Act, and other nations are already launching similar initiatives. The United States has led this, and now we’re seeing other countries, and other space programs, follow suit. Earlier this spring, the United Arab Emirates and their newly established space program described their intent to establish some policy related to space resources and space mining, and just last week, the deputy prime minister and the prime minister of Luxembourg announced a very large initiative that the country there is starting, and we’re collaborating with them in that activity, and they are going to form a new space policy which helps create a framework that supports the development of the industry.

Another concern with asteroid mining is getting to the asteroids. A great number of the asteroids in our solar system exist in a belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. That’s about 204 million miles. For comparison, the Moon is 238,000 miles away from Earth. Fortunately, we may not have to go quite that far in order to get to find viable asteroids for mining.

“Asteroids are actually the most accessible destinations once you go out of low-Earth orbit, and a lot of people aren’t aware of that. They think of asteroids as something between Mars and Jupiter, and that’s very, very far away. But that’s the great benefit of the near-Earth asteroids. There are now 14,000 that have already been discovered, and a few thousand of those actually are far easier to make the journey to-and-from.”

What do you think, would you invest in asteroid mining?

The Apple Energy Move

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Last week, Apple created a new business unit called Apple Energy. Apple has been buying renewable energy to power its facilities using an instrument called an REC. (Renewable Energy Credit) Essentially, the idea with RECs is that renewable energy, bought by Apple and put into the grid in one place, is used by an Apple facility or store from the grid in another. Because the contribution of renewable energy and usage of energy match, the net is that Apple’s energy usage is logically renewable-sourced. And Apple has been buying a lot of renewable energy. So much so, that Apple is a mini-utility for clean energy. Why do that?

Millennials

Well, for one, given the volume of clean energy it purchases, Apple can fairly claim itself as a sustainability leader to its customers and employees. Many of both constituencies are millenials, a group particularly focused on buying from and working for companies that act responsibly from an environmental perspective. So, there’s an argument to be made that Apple Energy is simply a smart marketing move to capture hearts of Millennial customers. That’s fantastic and frankly necessary for Apple anyway. But, it’s not the important take-away.

Product

My theory is that it’s about service + product combos. Think about what Apple started in 2007 with the launch of the iPhone. Apple added massive value on both sides of the communication network and created a revolution… without needing to own the delivery network. Apple launched the iPhone on the consumer side of the network and the AppStore (and other services) on the Apple side of the network. AT&T sat in between.

With Apple Energy, Apple may be creating a renewable energy service on one side of the Enernet and matching that to new devices on the consumer side of the network. Devices like smart home tech, batteries and energy appliances that pair with Apple’s renewable energy and differentiate themselves as dynamic energy devices, powered by clean tech.

Depending on how that’s done that could be a transformative moment for energy. Imagine new devices from Apple in their HomeKit suite… Apple’s versions of Nest, Sonos, Sense, Powerwall, and Chargepoint, all with the option to be powered by renewable energy. How? Apple sells you a sexy product with the “guaranteed carbon free” energy as an add-on through it’s renewable energy service. This would be similar to how Tesla bundles in its SuperCharging network for its S and X models. Speaking of which…

Car

It’s no secret that Apple is working on a car. If you believe that’s true, then Apple Energy is a logical move. It’s a place to house R&D into battery tech and EV charging products, and procurement of renewable energy for the fleet of energy devices necessary to support iAutos on the Enernet. It could also be a place, for now, to house some development around its automotive product.

Assuming Apple does launch a car, it’ll need charging stations, for home and community, and a lot of them. If the approach is anything like Apple’s charging philosophy for its phones, Apple will design a custom connector with innovative features that folks never imagined from a “cord”… like a guarantee that the electrons passing through it are green. Apple Energy could house all that.

If it’s not evident by now, I’m impressed by Apple and the Apple Energy move. If I’m right, it’s a massively strategic move for Apple, one that demonstrates leadership and vision. Assuming Apple is successful, the move may also portend a coming, Apple-led shift in products and how businesses and consumers think about energy.

Brexit: No, Turkey Is Not Coming

UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage looks on during a debate on the outcome of the 7 March EU-Turkey Summit at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on March 9, 2016. / AFP / FREDERICK FLORIN (Photo credit should read FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Britons will soon be heading to polls to make a crucial decision for the future of their country – as well as the future of the European Union. The economy argument has been among the loudest ones heard and is a legitimate one to make, but polls show that it is in fact immigration, rather than economy that is the bigger concern for referendum goers. This has certainly been facilitated by the refugee crisis-stricken Europe opening borders and then trying to deal with the consequences with what seems little foresight.

In a speech in European Parliament late last year, Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP and supporter of Brexit, made an analogy of Germany accepting refugees as opening a champagne cork and later trying to put it back in. He believes that the Turkey-EU deal is an exploitation of the union’s weaknesses and that Turkey is conducting blackmail to gain visa-free travel rights without any guarantee that they would help the refugee flow.

Months later, the agreement was put in place and the number of migrants has decreased sharply. This proves that to prompt legal migration, a deal had to be made. However, the terms were controversial. Turkey has been aiming at visa-free travel and EU accession talks for a long time and mixing it up with humanitarian problem solving – only making blackmail for both sides more likely, making the deal less fair.

It’s unlikely that Turkey will get the visa liberalisation deal, as Turkish president is against softening anti-terrorism laws that EU finds undemocratic. The new Turkish government will not seek many compromises, since EU hasn’t delivered on their promises either — Turkey hasn’t received the 3 billion funds for refugee relocation. Blind to this reality, Britain’s Vote Leave campaign has recently taken on the menacing narrative that Turkey is set to join EU very soon.

“To me, without any other debate, if it was one single reason why Britain should in this referendum vote to leave the European Union, it is the folly of political integration with Turkey. It is not only stupid, it is damn dangerous.” -Nigel Farage

UK citizens are extremely fearful about a massive influx of Turkish immigrants into EU and they shouldn’t be concerned because it probably won’t happen. The Vote Leave campaign claims that Turkey is set to join EU in a few years and open doors to 76 million Turks who will pose a great threat to the security and economy of UK (in an assumption that these are mainly poor people or criminals wanting to migrate). When in fact, a poll conducted by the campaign itself shows that only 16% would consider relocating to the UK. In a study carried out by the British government, little evidence was found of a statistically significant impact on EU migration on native employment.

Even if the refugee deal holds, the migration argument cannot be played because the UK is not part of Schengen zone, which will be affected by visa-free travel. Besides, it will give no residence rights. Turkey’s accession to EU is so highly unlikely that it shouldn’t even be part of the Brexit conversation. The basic admission criteria or the Copenhagen criteria, states that candidate countries have to be market economies, able to fulfil membership obligations and stable democracies.

“It is not remotely on the cards that Turkey is going to join the EU any time soon. They applied in 1987. At the current rate of progress, they will probably get round to joining in about the year 3000.” -David Cameron

Even if Turkey’s EU vote was on the agenda, the decision on the accession of a new member state has to be unanimous. The UK, as an EU member can veto it. Plus, they might not even be the only country veto-ing it. Greece has already done it before because of the disputes over Northern Cyprus and the control of Aegean Sea. Additionally – France and Germany hasn’t shown much support either.

Turkey shouldn’t be looked down upon, as it is the second largest member of NATO and plays an important geopolitical role mainly because of its size and location. Though, ts population size would give it too much political leverage that would significantly turn the power tides in European politics. It seems like Turkey would only put a strain on the relations between communities and endanger future cooperation between countries.

What Uber & Saudi Arabia’s Relationship Means

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Last week, Uber received an investment of $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia. While it is bigger than Uber’s previous fundraising rounds, Uber has raised a sequence of $1 billion investments over the last few years. However, in the political view, Uber’s decision to take money from Saudi Arabia is a big deal. Aside from a 5 percent stake in the company, Saudi Arabia also gets a seat on Uber’s board.

For people worried about issues like gender equality, customer privacy, and human rights, it’s hard to imagine a worse choice for Uber’s newest board member. The Saudi regime is notorious for its unequal treatment of women, whom aren’t even allowed to drive in the Saudi kingdom, as well as its disrespect for human rights in general.

According to Human Rights Watch, “Authorities subjected hundreds of people to unfair trials and arbitrary detention.” The Saudi government persecutes human rights activists, subjecting them to decade-long prison sentences for advocating political reforms and talking to foreign reporters. There’s every reason to expect the Saudi government to continue its repressive policies in the coming years. And now when the Saudi government violates human rights, Uber will get bad press for it.

The biggest issue for Uber will be Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women. Saudi Arabia is infamous for refusing to allow women to drive and for limiting their ability to go out in public without a male chaperone. Uber is likely to face awkward questions about whether its partnership with the Saudi government amounts to an endorsement of these policies.

Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick is making it clear that he intends to run Uber as an amoral profit-maximizing machine. This could be a huge problem in terms of long-term success. Monopolies inevitably face public scrutiny and pressure for regulation and it will be much more difficult for Uber to resist that pressure if regulators and customers do not have trust and respect for them.

Over the past few years, Uber has faced accusations that it has spied on its customers and suggested digging up dirt on journalists. It has also generated a lot of backlash with massive surge pricing increases on busy nights.

When a new startup shows that they are willing to do anything to win, it is appealing. However, Uber has exploded past the underdog that it used to be. The difference now is that the “take no prisoners” approach to business seems hostile.

The Future of Healthcare

Dramatic improvements in healthcare over the last few centuries have carried humanity from the grips of early death to a renaissance of longevity and improving wellness. Today’s modern era has its own health challenges to be certain, but overall humans are living longer lives, thwarting once-fatal diseases, and mending debilitating wounds better than ever.

Healthcare will continue to be critical over the coming decades as the human population grows and ages at a rapid pace. Presuming that research and development receive adequate funding, allowing innovations to reach the market in an affordable way, some amazing changes should be in store for the world’s ailing, hurt and elderly.

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Here are four emerging innovations in healthcare that I believe will be the most transformative for medicine and wellness in years to come.

3D Printing

It has technically been around since 1984, but it has only recently witnessed an explosion in commercial usage, with the industry growing by 35.2 percent in 2014 alone. 3D printed products range across a variety of industries from toys to heavy industry, and healthcare is among the most propitious.

3D printers, which assemble products directly from a digital model with layers of manmade or organic material, can manufacture skin for burn victims, airway splints for weak lungs, and will soon reach fully functioning human organs. Though emerging technologies typically take time to become cost effective in hospitals, 3D printing is less expensive than other forms of manufacturing and will become mainstream much sooner assuming regulators get on board.

Implant Technology

Technology is starting to get under our skin — in both a figurative and literal sense. New electronic implants can be embedded into the human body to sense, record, and influence internal functionality. The possibilities are truly impressive: tiny devices that have the ability to detect and counteract seizures in epileptics, slow cell damage in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients, and even restore power to the blind, deaf, or paralyzed.

Many of the most extraordinary of these implants have not reached the mass market yet, and will require more testing to be proven effective, affordable, and safe for use. When implants become a viable alternative to medication, they will become an even more commonplace and revolutionary form of treatment.

Robotic Aides

Though the idea may make you think of the Jetsons’ maid, robot caretakers are already here with more to come soon. Though doctors and nurses will remain the primary medical personnel for decades to come, robotic assistants will augment their abilities to the benefit of patients both in and out of hospitals.

Robotic aides are already caring for the elderly. As the baby boomer generation continues to age, retire, and seek eldercare, even more opportunities will arise for robotic assistance.

Robots today can perform surgery, provide medical counsel remotely, assist in eating and child therapy, and deliver specimens in hospitals. Some robotic aides can perform the equivalent work of three human employees for the cost of less than one. As healthcare industries need of workers grows, these robotic helpers will be put to good use with thousands expected to enter hospitals in coming years.

Advanced Sensors

Wearable technology has been touted as the next big craze for tech and fashion, but its sensor functionality is perfectly suited for healthcare innovation. The growing popularity of fitness trackers makes clear that this type of technology has a bright future in tracking and relaying health information from a medical perspective.

Clinically accurate blood pressure monitors, smart hearing aids, clothing that tracks breathing and heart rate, and wearable infrared light therapy for chronic pain are all devices that recently debuted at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). That’s not to mention Google’s smart contact lenses, which will sense glucose levels for patients with diabetes, and other devices like smart pacemakers.

Among the most groundbreaking in sensor technology may be digestible sensors. These tiny pill-like contraptions transmit patient internal data to doctors as they move through the body and interacts with various organs.

These are just a few of the innovations that I foresee will change healthcare across the world as they continue being developed and move into the mass market. Imagine what these will do for quality of life and quality of treatment for our current generations and those to come.

Australia is the New Asia

As the world continues to shrink with globalization, international real estate investment is becoming more popular than ever before. Improved communications, reduced transactional friction and investment-friendly policies are drawing Asian investment to the U.S. market in record numbers. However, there’s also been intense activity in Australian real estate, particularly from Asian investors.

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iProperty.com conducted a survey at the end of 2015, which showed that Australia was the first choice of investment location for international property buyers based in Singapore and Malaysia, second for Indonesian investors.

Experts suggest that these investors see Australian properties as a better investment than real estate in other countries. It is often relatively cheap, given currency fluctuations. The Australian dollar has fallen by about 30% in the last few years.

Asian investors are “looking at larger towns like Newcastle and Wollongong. Larger established towns (with) universities in place and also potential for growth from a commercial side of things.”

There’s been a high level of investment from China as well. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Chinese investment in Australian real estate has doubled in the past year. This segment accounts for 16% of the total sales of Australian real estate. In fact, China invests 3 times the amount in Australian real estate that the U.S. does, and 6 times what Singapore invests. Prior to 2013, the U.S. was the leading investor in Australian property. China is extremely important to the Australian economy. It is Australia’s largest export destination and also contributes to that country’s growing international tourism.

This is partly fueled by uncertainty surrounding the Chinese economy. Favorable trade agreements and a growing Chinese middle class also encourage the flow of investment to the Australian market. High net worth individuals in China find the Australian market attractive, both in terms of price and economic stability.

Actions by the Australian government at the end of 2015 also put a bit of a damper on foreign real estate investors. The government cracked down on property owners who had not gotten the required approval for their investments. It also instated a new fee for international investors registering their Australian properties. Rules governing newly built properties are less restrictive, and this has led to record participation from foreign investors in development projects.

The international impact is being felt mostly in the residential market, in part due to the small size of the commercial market, which is dominated by domestic investors. However, foreign money is stillgoing into commercial properties as well as development plans. Overall, in the past year, 50% of Australian real estate investment capital came from foreign investors, according toAustralia’s Foreign Investment Review Board.

I can see this high level of foreign interest will have an impact on all sectors of the Australian market. Demand is expected to grow in hotels and resorts and even in the rural land market. It’s likely that this trend in high demand will continue.

Should Women Be Drafted?

U.S. Specialist Jennifer Fifield of the 2nd Battalion of the 12th Cavalry Regiment attends a briefing at the forward operating base of Liberty camp April 1, 2007, before leaving for a mission in Baghdad's northwest Sunni neighborhood of Ghazaliya. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch (IRAQ) - RTR1O6I2

Last week, the House Armed Services Committee approved an annual Defense authorization bill containing an amendment that would require women to register for the draft. The amendment narrowly passed on a 32–30 vote.

Since 1940, male citizens of a certain age have been forced to register with the Selective Service System. The amendment, which was proposed by California Representative Duncan Hunter, comes at a time when the military is prepping to integrate women into all front-line, combat positions. Should the measure pass the full House and Senate in the coming months, women may be required by law to register with the Selective Service.

Practically speaking, a draft requirement doesn’t mean much for women. The military has been an all-volunteer force for more than four decades, ever since it became clear during the Vietnam War that draft odds were not applied equally to all American men — low-income males who couldn’t defer by pursuing a college education were more likely to go to war. That draft inequality fueled public backlash, and in the 1970s the Selective Service ended the draft.

Though men still have to register with the Selective Service, no president since has ordered a draft and it seems unlikely a draft will be necessary for any conflicts in the near future.

However, if that were to change, what would gender-neutral compulsory military service look like? For answers, Americans can turn to Israel. The Israeli Defense Forces have allowed women in combat positions since 1995. Today, more than one-third of the IDF’s compulsory service is made up of women.

According to a report from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence, research on the IDF shows that “during service Commanders have recognized that female combatants often exhibit superior skills in areas such as discipline and motivation, maintaining alertness, shooting abilities, managing tasks in an organized manner, and displaying knowledge and professionalism in the use of weapons.”

The same report found that the successful integration of women in traditionally male-dominated combat roles was largely dependent on military leaders. “If the Commander was to express belief in [women’s] ability and considered them to be equal to their male counterparts, then they would eventually become ‘one of the gang,’” the authors wrote.

According to Arieh Shalev, a psychiatry professor at New York University’s School of Medicine. “The fact that males and females are drafted in Israel, it really influences what the attitude is about being at war and serving in the military,” he says. “It’s making the military service everyone’s experience.”

In the U.S.’s all-volunteer force, only a small subset of our relatively large population is tasked with participating in a war. Some soldiers, returning to a country full of citizens who can’t relate to their experiences, can feel a supreme sense of isolation. But in Israel, the shared military (and sometimes combat) experience can help soldiers cope. It can also benefit society at large; soldiers may bring their experiences in a mixed-gender military to the civilian world, helping to create a more gender-equal society.

However, Shalev notes, “the equality comes out of necessity, because the country’s been surrounded by potential enemies and the resources are limited.” Whereas in the U.S. and much of Europe, with all-volunteer forces, an entire generation of men has grown up without the expectation to serve.

Right now, the U.S. has the military manpower it needs without compulsory service, so the decision to include women in the draft would be mostly symbolic. What do you think?

Personalization is Killing Pedagogy

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I recently saw a CNN report that was inquiring whether personalized learning was the future of education. The idea was based on a $133 million school startup known as AltSchool. This inquiry was actually a legitimate concern identified by former Google executive, Max Ventilla. The ambition to make the learning experience more personal is a difficult one to argue against. However, as more and more schools adopt this philosophy, a multi-billion dollar industry is emerging. The question is that in its attempt to systemize this approach, is it ironically in danger of depersonalizing the learning experience of students more than ever?

Again, it seems harmless, but the reality of how it would be implemented in schools is questionable. For example, there are aspects of the AltSchool program that are impressive (flexible schedule, commitment to physical education and innovation), but the reported approach to learning sounds anything but personal.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the original concept of developing greater student agency — a complex task — is being lost in attempts by well-intentioned schools to provide this opportunity in a manageable manner which is, in turn, being capitalized upon by the “education reform” industry. These canned approaches move us further and further away from the objective of making learning personal.

Even so, some educational publishers are beginning to standardize personalization. The desire for technology integration and data analytics (two worthy things given the right context ) have combined to form a conveyor belt approach to learning. It works like this: the software indicates that you have “mastered” X; the student can move to Y. In this way, technology investment is justified and data is recorded in visually appealing ways. This is not learning and it is not personal.

In his new book, Eric Sheninger points out that “pedagogy always trumps technology.” There can be no argument with this perspective. “For digital learning to be implemented effectively,” Sheninger contends, “[we must] focus on pedagogy first.”

Therefore, our insistence that we are doing our best to provide “personal” learning stems from a conviction that the learner comes first, that the skilled teacher is more critical than ever, and that technology and data can amplify this philosophy when approached in the correct context.

If personalized learning means that students are required to move through a series of data points in some software program, then I hope schools will avoid this movement at all costs. Learning should be personal. The best learning has always been personal. It requires relationships and collaboration, individuality and personal rapport.

Brands Need to Learn How to Influence Culture

Before there was social media—before there was mobile and the video revolution, there was blogging. Once heralded as a revolution in communications and to a degree, marketing—self expression and direct publishing of the written word became an influential force to be dealt with.

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Blogging, in written word form of has been a commodity for some time. Content in all forms—even mobile optimized and snackable content. There’s simply too much of it. Most of it is not very good and even if it is—the amount of effort it takes to make sure that content will travel far and wide makes for considerable effort. Many will do this well but more will fail.

Culture

The ability to create it, influence it, co-create it and integrate a brand so seamlessly in culture and relevant sub cultures. This is the next frontier of marketing and communications and while it has much to do with things like social, mobile and content—it is the cultural aspect that must lead while everything else follows. A fantastic article in Harvard Business Review reflects some of this shift, labeling it within the context of something Douglas Holt calls “Crowdculture”:

The challenge for brands is that they often times cannot create culture by themselves. Today’s culture creators often thrive in “sub cultures”—niche groups that exist under more mainstream areas whether it be food, sports, fashion—lest you think this only applies to “consumer brands” it does not. Subcultures exist in business as well and continue to diversify as business itself becomes more specialized and niche.

Brands and Organizations Must Become Collaborators and Co-Creators of Culture

Today and tomorrow’s challenge for brands and organizations is to tweak their marketing and communications infrastructure so they can effectively collaborate with influencers of culture across the spectrum. If brands cannot create culture from scratch—they can co-create it with the right partners across the paid, owned, earned and social spectrum. But to do this at scale, they must understand the ecosystem of influence and re-structure internally to connect that ecosystem and approach peer to peer influence from all sides.

The Rise of Influencers

Brands and organizations who wish to influence culture and become co-creators of it, must begin to coordinate how they approach working with those who wield influence, coming at it from different directions. For example, TIME magazine featured a cover telling us that we should “eat butter”. While earned in nature, the story and the journalists behind it are playing a key role in the resurgence of butter and how Americans are re-thinking fat. It’s an example of media influencing culture—in this particular example, this kind of influence cannot be bought—it must be earned, however, increasingly cultural influencers such as “YouTubers” require paid means to collaborate with.

“Content Marketing” came after social media and mobile and it enjoyed a good run. But it’s not enough to create content in a complex media ecosystem that makes it extremely difficult to break though and earn attention. Brands will have to learn how to influence culture and sub cultures by collaborating with those who create it externally while coordinating their fractured functions internally. 

The Secret Ingredient of Being Brilliant

steve jobsEveryone I know wishes that they could harness the creative genius and innovation that Steve Jobs had. He inspired many with his extreme ideas, but there is one secret that I believe greatly contributed to his success – he explored his interests.

During a speech at Stanford, Jobs talked about a calligraphy class that he took:

“I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to [learn calligraphy]. I learned about serif and sans-serif typefaces, about varying the space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture.

None of this had any hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would never have multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

Jobs wasn’t always working on the iPhone, he made sure that he explored other interests outside of it.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

Unsurprisingly, this has been found true in other industries outside of tech. Apparently, fashion designers that spent time traveling abroad had the most creative designs. Something as simple as “new sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights” sparks different synapses in the brain and boosts innovation.

When you are an entrepreneur, it is easy to have tunnel vision and all you can think of is completing each of the million to billion tasks that you need to accomplish to make your business succeed. However, new experiences directly correlate with innovation and success, even if it’s not apparent at all how they do so.

However, maybe you can’t go travel or take a seemingly useless course. Try one of the following instead:

Take a Walk

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner regularly hold walking meetings  because walking boosts creativity, backed by research conducted by Stanford University. Even if you feel yourself falling into a rut in the middle of the day, get outside and take a few laps around the building.

Take a Risk

As Mark Zuckerberg put it, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.” If you find yourself just treading water, that probably means that you need to make a move that involves some risk. It’s too tempting to only focus on “surefire” projects and ones where the payoff is incredibly apparent. However, it’s beyond important to take those riskier leaps, even if they scare you.

Take a Class

No, not actually – but you are going to treat your own business as such. Ask questions about everything you’re doing. Ask if you’re finding the quickest route from point A to point B. Ask if your approach will produce your best and greatest work.

You should be constantly challenging yourself, creating new problems, learning how to find new solutions. Incorporate at least one of my suggestions into your life and let me know what happens, I’m sure you’ll be surprised.

How the Chatbot will Change Retail

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You’ll soon be able to do a lot of neat stuff with a Facebook messenger chatbot or via your favorite SMS app, such as WhatsApp, Line, Kik and Slack. For many of us who’ve used bot-powered digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana, bots may seem like a novelty. You may find yourself laughing at their misunderstandings more often than you’ve found yourself appreciating their utility.

But evangelists of the technology say that bots are poised to be at the center of a crucial paradigm shift in how we think about using the Internet. While a Web browser might once have been our front door to the Internet and apps often play that role today, bots could soon become our primary digital gateway. At a conference last month, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said, “Bots are the new apps.”

Retailers will have much more pressure to adopt retail technologies that consumers will enjoy. This means the customer experience will be more implicated with technology, than ever before. The role of AI’s role in customer engagement will be in one word, exponential in its growth and impact on sales.

What many people don’t seem to realize is how chatbots are the first contextual AI that will change how brands and smart spaces communicate with us. The chat bot revolution comes at a time when mobile commerce, the Internet of things (IoT) and more immersive branding combine to form a better experience for customers and one that allows them to truly personalize their journey in relation to your brand and while shopping in your store.

Integrative Engagement Paradigm (IEP)

  1. Personalization: Chat-Bots (AI) linked with predictive analytics and data-augmented technologies such as cloud POS, Big Data, loyalty programs.
  2. Convenience: Wearables (unified nativity). Multiple points of contact (Voice, SMS, notifications, wearable vibrations, color flashes on smart bands (that mean different things).
  3. Responsiveness: Smart Spaces (IoT). Open-source human data-points and human analytics.
  4. Immersion: Video content, Digital signature, holograms, AR & VR. Acquiring and engaging attention, branding and emotion.
  5. Customization: Personal Virtual Assistants (AI-ML-NLP). Hybrid human-AI intelligence.

With social media becoming less engaging and social sharing down on sites like Facebook, we’re already looking to the future. The future is one in which AI actually humanizes cities, spaces and facilitates a more personalized world full of more ambient and emotional customer experiences and authentic interactions.

Growing up texting and on Instagram is one thing, growing up with responsive environments and customizable AI interfaces is quite another. The future is not just one experience, it’s choosing the way you want to interact with people, places, brands and contexts that are customizable with AI to help you navigate an increasingly “noisy” world.

YouTube Needs to Step Up Their Game

For the past few years, Youtube has been in the power position when it comes to dealing with artists. It is the one of the most popular sites on the web and certainly the biggest music destination. Every once in awhile, an artist will try to fight it, as well as the industry, but generally the music business knows that pulling songs and videos off YouTube is a losing proposition overall.

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No other site offers as much music as YouTube and even though much of it is poor live footage and bootleg content, this is stuff that fans can’t find anywhere else. YouTube also has the stickiness of a video and the ability to engage two senses if you want, but you can also just let the users click open to another tab and just let the music run in the background.

However, there are signs that YouTube’s domination in music may be coming to an end. The big hit is that other streaming sites are finally starting to engage with video. Yes, I’m talking about Spotify. They’ve gotten massive raises recently and it’s pretty likely that they’ll spend at least some of that money increasing video offerings. The other threat is SoundCloud’s launch of its long-awaited streaming service, Go. Even Apple Music’s deal with Dubset to license mixes is a threat. YouTube’s ownership of the UGC and unofficial content space might finally be disrupted.

In reality, YouTube won’t lose artists tomorrow and frankly, it might never cease to be the site where the vast majority of the world comes to listen. This is an awakening though – that they need to begin stepping up their features to prevent any further losses. What could they do?

First, YouTube could market itself as a destination for music and create its own class of music starts within their ecosystem. When the NYC subway was wrapped with YouTube ads, all of the ads were for YouTube stars – none of them were for recording artists, even though they are a huge driver to the site. YouTube stars feature people who make videos about makeup application, cooking, video games and other topics. While YouTube has invested heavily in them, they could also invest heavily in the ready to be recording artists. Why not start their own record label and keep them in house?

YouTube could also help artists solve the big problem of monetization. Last year, they rolled out more e-commerce options, but they could allow artists to make money on everything. Any time Beyoncé wears a dress in a video, I need to be able to hover over it and see a link where I could theoretically buy it, once I won the lottery. More realistically, any time an indie artist wear a cool piece of clothing from an up-and-coming designer, I could hover, buy it with one click, and the artist would get a cut, along with YouTube. Everyone would win.

One last suggestion I have is to harness some of Google’s power. Some of the smartest data scientists on earth work there, and could surely help artists comb through all their information and route the most effective tours or plan great marketing campaigns, and some of those AdWords gurus could assist artists in figuring out how to get in front of casual listeners who just want to hear something that sounds like their favorite band.

What do you think that YouTube should do?

Show Your Company Culture on Instagram

Over the past month, I’ve been looking at the social media use of some of the biggest tech startups. I chose 100 unicorns (private companies that are valued at over a billion dollars) and collected data on how they use social media. The results were pretty interesting.

I chose to focus on unicorns because they have already proved that they can build a big company and attract a large following. What makes these tech startups interesting is that they don’t have an abundance of content to post from their various products such as trendy glasses from Warby Parker or delicious food from Blue Apron. Most of the Unicorns so not have a physical product. They have services or apps that are difficult to show on Instagram because honestly, we don’t really want to see dashboards or app screenshots.

Naturally, there are a few lessons that businesses with social media should learn from them. The biggest lesson is to sell your audience on your brand or company culture. For example, show how amazing your office is or people using your product. The point is, make it about people.

  • Evernote has 30k followers and uses their account to show off their office. They get around 400 interactions per photo.
  • Lyft has almost the same amount of followers, but features a lot of cityscapes they drive in. They received about 300 interactions on each photo.
  • Eventbrite has 7k followers and mainly posts pictures of their office or employees. They get an average of 75 interactions.
  • Hootsuite is my favorite because it has been posting all dog pictures. They’ve racked up 21k followers with 200 interactions per post.

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These may not seem like the highest numbers to you because you’re used to seeing high numbers of companies with physical products. However, I believe that these numbers are still impressive and deserve a round of applause!

In conclusion, for the app developers around the world – think about the culture that you stand for and think about how to visualize it just like these companies have through behind the scenes photos of their office, team members or photos from everyday work. It is not impossible for you to grow your social media audience, it just takes some creativity from your team.

Additionally, I don’t think that this idea of sharing your culture should be restricted to companies without a physical product. Even if you do have a physical product, I believe that showing your company culture will help you connect with your audience in a stronger manner.

Apple Releases New iPhone SE, iPad Pro & Discounted Apple Watch

Today, Apple revealed some new toys for us – a new iPhone, iPad tablet for business use and a cheaper Apple Watch. These announcements were expected to be made in an effort to keep up with the company’s commercial momentum in the face of mounting sales challenges.

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That’s right, Apple needs a lift. Sales of its flagship iPhone are leveling off after the surge to record levels last year that made Apple the world’s biggest company by stock market value. We’re wondering if Cook can come up with another big hit.

“Tim Cook has said he thinks there’s a lot of life left in the iPhone product line, despite the media and investor community pressuring Apple over the potential decline in premium iPhone sales,” Brian Blau a tech analyst at Gartner said. “I think it’s exactly these types of things that he has in mind.”

The new phone, named the iPhone SE is an upgrade to the older, four-inch iPhone 5S that was released in 2013. This phone is for consumers who haven’t jumped for the big-screened iPhone 6 models. The new features include a faster processor and graphic performance, which were only available in versions of the iPhone 6.

While shoppers bought a record 74.8 million iPhones in the final three months of 2015, Apple has signaled demand in the current three-month period will fall short of the 61 million iPhones sold in the January-March quarter last year. The iPhone SE will sell for $399 with no cellular contract, significantly lower than larger iPhone models, which list at $549 or more. The smaller phone may appeal to some shoppers, especially in overseas markets, who want a premium phone at lower cost.

The Apple Watch got quite the discount as well. Normally it costs around $350, but now it is only $299. There are also a new variety of accessories including a nylon strap.

Apple is calling the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro “the ultimate PC replacement.” Its screen is fitted with a “true tone display,” which means that the onscreen display changes its color depending on the ambient light. Other features include four speakers, a super advanced camera and a powerful A9X processor. Additionally, the screen encourages users to draw using the Apple Pencil. You can get the new iPad Pro is silver, gold, space gray and rose gold.

Did you tune into the announcement as well? Let us know if you’re planning on buying any of the new gadgets, I’d like to hear why and what you think of them.

The Final Answer of What Made Slack Successful

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Slack is one of the fastest growing startups ever. It blew up within its short 2 years of existence, which is amazing considering that it is a SaaS startup. So, it hasn’t been a surprise that people have been analyzing what made it so successful.

First, there was the Slack’s $2.8 Billion Dollar Secret Sauce article by Andrew Wilkinson of Metalab – the design agency that helped Slack founder, Steward Butterfield turn his code into Slack’s fun product. Obviously, this one concludes that the design is what makes the startup successful.

Then, there was the Slack’s Design is Not Secret Sauce article by a competing designer, Matt Bond. He concludes that it is a mix of design, product, timing, team and marketing – basically, they got lucky.

Even better, the Slack founder posted about his own experience, concluding that their team focused on education, feedback, customer happiness and metric analysis in order to drive success. However, I have my own views and they really come down to three reasons:

  1. Social Pressure

If you don’t follow Slack all the time, then other people will reference or know stuff on Slack that you don’t know about. Within companies, where it is very important to inform yourself about what’s going on – you need to stay on top of things for your position and future ambitions. There is an intense social pressure to follow Slack and post to Slack 24/7.

  1. Addiction

You have to follow Slack at all times, resulting in unconscious stress because you might miss something. Slack is basically as important as an email.

  1. Single Source of Information

Because of my first two reasons, more information is going into Slack and your team is heavily invested in it. Now, there is no way to escape it – Slack is a part of your company and its culture.

This is why their business model is brilliant. It is based on historical messages – the limit is 10,000 messages and then you have to start paying.

The means that if you don’t check Slack enough, which would put you in social isolation, there is no way to see a conversation ever again and save you from that isolation. Remember, the more people in your company, the faster you reach that 10k message limit.

For example, if each person in your company is posting like 100 messages a day, and your team is made up of 100 people in total, you already need to start paying to avoid social isolation. Before you know it, half the people are missing conversations, find themselves socially isolated, and you start paying licenses because your internal communication and company culture just fails.

Brilliant. Well done, Slack.

Google Could Decide the Next U.S. President

For years, Robert Epstein and his colleagues have been conducting numerous experiments in the US and India in order to determine whether search results can impact people’s political opinions. Now, we are beginning to find answers.

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Today, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today told us of an insidious and pervasive new form of mind control that search results have transformed into – and of course, they mean Google.

Epstein shows that around 50 percent of our clicks go to the top two items on the first page of results and over 90 percent of our clicks go to the 10 items listed. Thus, it is very important how Google decides which of the billions of web pages to include in our search results and how to rank them.

Surprisingly, Epstein found that the proportion of people favoring the skewed search engine’s top-ranked candidate increased by over 48 percent. Additionally, 75 percent of the subjects in the study did not know that they were viewing biased search rankings.

In another study that involved more than 2,000 people from all 50 US states. In that experiment, the shift in voting preferences induced by the researchers was 37 percent, and as high as 80 percent in some demographic groups.

According to the Pew Research Center. Google has a near-monopoly on internet searches in the US with 83 percent of Americans specifying Google as the search engine they use most often. If Google did favor one candidate in an election, its impact on undecided voters could easily decide the election’s outcome.

So what if Google decided that it was in the best interests of all concerned to do whatever it could to help us select our next president? Epstein said, “If Google set about to fix an election, it could first dip into its massive database of personal information to identify just those voters who are undecided. Then it could, day after day, send customized rankings favoring one candidate to just those people. One advantage of this approach is that it would make Google’s manipulation extremely difficult for investigators to detect.”

Remember that in the 2012 presidential election, Google and its top execs contributed more than $800,000 to Barack Obama and just $37,000 to Mitt Romney. Is it possible that they would use more than just their money?

I’m skeptical. I don’t think that Google would act so nefariously. Plus, Silicon Valley tends to be full of free-market Libertarians. However, I’d love to hear what your opinion is – please share below.

Cuba Has Big Visitors This Month

The Rolling Stones are making a surprising detour on their Latin American tour. The destination? Havana, Cuba. The concert in Cuba will be a part of the band’s “America Latina Ole” tour, which is currently playing cities like Rio de Janeiro, Bogota, and Mexico City.

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The free concert will take place on March 25th in the Ciudad Deportiva de la Habana, a sports arena. This will be the first open air concert in the country by a British rock band. The Rolling Stones commented on their website, “We have performed in many special places during our long career but this show in Havana is going to be a landmark event for us, and, we hope, for all our friends in Cuba too.”

The concert is scheduled just days after President Obama’s first visit to Cuba on March 2l to 22. Obama will be the first sitting U.S. president to travel to the country in 88 years. This is another big step after the reopening of the American embassy in Cuba this past August.

Obama actually announced his upcoming visit via Twitter. “We still have differences with the Cuban government that I will raise directly. America will always stand for human rights around the world,” he tweeted. “Next month, I’ll travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the livesimages of the Cuban people.”

The President will meet with Cuba President Raul Castro, as well as entrepreneurs and different members of Cuban society. The President aims to continue to “chart a new course” for U.S.- Cuban relations by connecting U.S. and Cuban citizens through travel, commerce and access to information.

Cubans have also reacted positively to the announcement of the visit. “U.S. President Barack Obama will be welcomed by the government of Cuba and the Cuban people with our traditional hospitality. It will be an opportunity for (the) President to appreciate the Cuban reality,” Josefina Vidal, the general director for U.S. affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry said at a news conference in Havana Thursday. “His visit will represent a step forward in relations between Cuba and the US.”

The last sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba was Calvin Coolidge back in 1928. However, President Coolidge traveled to Cuba on a U.S. battleship so this will be a very different type of visit.

I’m very pleased that we have been making such progress in our relations with Cuba and hope that our relationship continues to become stronger.

Is This Ex-Yelp Employee Right?

download (3)A Yelp employee who wrote a bold blog post about her low pay was fired, and has even got her ex-CEO responding on Twitter.  Talia Jane, a customer-service rep who worked for the company’s food delivery arm Eat24, wrote an open letter to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman on Friday explaining how she could not afford to pay groceries, had stopped using her heater, spent 80 percent of her income on paying rent in San Francisco and was “balancing all sorts of debt and trying to pave a life for myself that doesn’t involve crying in the bathtub every week.” Jane further comments about going to sleep with stomach pains and only eating rice while not at the office.

Even as she posted her letter online, Jane seemed to understand that the repercussions of her post could involve her job. Jane tweeted, “might lose my job for this so it’d be cool if u shared so i could go out in a blaze of…..people knowing why i got fired?” Her premonitions proved correct, as shortly after, she was let go by Yelp for what she terms as a violation of their internal “terms of conduct.”

The incident drew a series of responses from Stoppelman, who addressed her concerns by acknowledging the high cost of living in San Francisco, while rebuffing any allegations he was the one who fired Jane.

A Yelp spokesperson told Fortune that the company would not comment on personnel matters. However, the spokesperson did echo both Jane and Stoppelman’s comments on the standard of living in San Francisco. “We agree with her remarks about the high costs of living in San Francisco, which is why we announced in December that we are expanding our Eat24 customer support team into our Phoenix office where will pay the same wage.”

Even amongst other millennial like Jane, there has been a mixed response of support and disgust in her attitude. One writer, Stefanie Williams commented, “Work ethic is not something that develops from entitlement. Quite the opposite, in fact. It develops when you realize there are a million other people who could perform your job and you are lucky to have one. It comes from sucking up the bad aspects and focusing on the good and above all it comes from humility. It comes from modesty. And those are two things, based on your article, that you clearly do not possess.”

There is no doubt that working in Silicon Valley can be challenging, but Williams does make a point about work ethic. What do you think – do you sympathize with Jane?

Pandora’s Box of Apple vs. FBI

A US district court ordered Apple to break security protections on an iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter, drawing the company into a legal fight with FBI and the US government. There has been a huge discussion based on the conflict between confidentiality and terrorism that is sweeping the globe. 

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Donald Trump says that Apple should comply with the California judge’s order to help the FBI hack the phone. Being in strong agreement with the government, Trump questioned Apple: “Who do they think they are? We have to open it up!”

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, replied that they won’t provide a “backdoor” for the FBI, saying, “It’s just something we simply don’t have.” Strongly against the order, Apple refuses to build something that could threaten their customers. Apple released an open letter written by Cook, stating “Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.”

Advisor Abbate is siding with Cook, against hacking the iPhone. “If this software was available to the government, then they may be able to access anyone’s phone they want to check without reasons and permission. And once the software gets leaked, you don’t want to imagine what you’ll be facing. There are millions of iPhone users who also need to be protected. If leaving the shooter’s phone locked brings potential crisis to homeland security, will hacking into people’s cell phones really provide safety to us? We have to draw a line to better balance the consequences.”

“We have been experiencing it time and time again, losing freedom by having privileges taken away from us. It’s very critical to make this decision, pro the order,” said Advisor Abbate. “Throughout my years spent managing businesses, I was disappointed by the government and the American traditional system. For example, with the attitudes of the prosecutors, they are so ‘eager’ to prosecute someone in order to advance their career, which is their primary concern. The government should be truly and primarily concerned about the public, they should be protecting and servicing the people.”

China is keeping its eye on the discussion. Analysts have said that in the regulation of information encryption, China would refer to the practice of the U.S. government, having similar requests to technology companies. China has passed new controversial anti-terrorism laws at the end of last year, saying that technology companies are needed to combat growing threats. It also states that if the government requests for technology assistance, the referring company should do it in order to help the police department.

What if this event happened in China? Would Apple make the same decision? Anyone adapting to doing business in China, should know the local “policy.” ApplePay is going live this week and they don’t want to lose such a tremendous market. Compared to Uber’s failure by losing over $1 billion a year in China, Didi Kuaidi, backed by the Chinese technology giants Tencent Holdings Ltd and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, have each spent enormous amounts to subsidize rides to gain market share. “It’s getting better and healthier for the Chinese market, and it’s great they’re going towards the right direction”, said Advisor Abbate, “But AliPay will continue to lead the market.”

Apple’s battle with FBI is literally the Pandora’s box, “Once you open it, even a bit, there’s no way back.” Do you want to open it? Which side you would take?

ChemChina – Overseas & Overpaying

The government-owned agrochemical firm, China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) announced an all-cash proposal to buy Swiss rival, Syngenta for $43 billion. This deal is expected to improve China’s food production. Now, the world is asking China, “How?” and “Why?”

download (2)China’s GDP hit a 25-year low in 2015 so why does the government still want to support such a large acquisition while the economy is declining?

The Chinese government has an objective to diversify its overseas industrial sector. Regardless, these deals do not make financial sense. All Chinese companies that are owned by the Chinese government have a mandate to go overseas for these purchases.

This can be very critical because companies like ChemChina are incredibly over leveraged. In the standard commercial market, they will not be able to receive a loan because they are in debt – over 10 times than the gross they will receive. Sometimes, up to three or four times is acceptable in the commercial industry, but not 10.

Why are the overseas companies willing to deal with these large Chinese firms even if they’re over leveraged?

According to Advisor Abbate, “They are essentially dealing with the Chinese government. When they are looking at a deal, they’re looking at guarantees by the Chinese government to be able to pay for whatever it will take.”

“My concern is if these Chinese companies have generated so much debt, it means they’re not well-managed. If they’re not well-managed in China, what makes them think they’ll be able to go overseas and buy a large company like Syngenta or the Italian tire maker, Pirelli and be able to manage them well?” questioned AA. There are many international stories about when inter-cultural acquisitions don’t turn out well. More so, the key problem towards China is the amount of debt that they have.

How will the acquisitions turn out? Is there a successful example? 

In 2013, one of the major national oil companies, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, or CNOOC Group had problems and paid a record $15 billion for Canadian company, Nexon with 60% premium to Nexon share price, only to suffer from the slump in global oil prices. Based on Advisor Abbate’s analysis, “The only successful one was the acquisition when Lenovo purchased IBM.” Lenovo did a good job by not only keeping the Western employees, but even hiring more Westerners. The CEO, Yang Yuanqing, took a very slow step in merging the culture of East and West allowing the two companies to understand each other slowly.

“I believe that in the very near future, the Chinese companies, which are represented as major global investors are going to be highly damaged by the amount of debt they are carrying and the inability to properly manage.”

BETTER POLICY NEEDED. Right now, the only reason these companies can go around the world, buying these large enterprises is because the Chinese government is simply presenting a “blank check”. Meanwhile, the Western companies are being greedy, but not responsible sellers. The EU is planning to step in to oppose some of these acquisitions.

How will China or the Chinese government benefit from these acquisitions?

How can it be possible for companies that have nearly 80 times debt over their gross income be able to do this? Unsurprisingly, the Chinese executives have certain connections within the government to obtain financing. When doing business, they’re actually doing “PR” work. “I don’t believe that it will be a practice for China in the long run,” said AA.

Acquisition for China is not a philosophy of commercial, but EXPANSION. It is more important to China to become a global player quickly, rather than developing within their own country. 

With the slowing economy in China and with factories operating at 70% of their production capacity, it make sense that they would expand outside of their market so that they can leverage the 30% of inefficiency.Ren Jianxin, Chairman of China National Chemical Corp shakes hands with Swiss agrochemicals maker Syngenta's President Michel Demare (R) after the company's annual news conference in Basel, Switzerland February 3, 2016. China made its boldest overseas takeover move yet when state-owned ChemChina agreed a $43 billion bid for Swiss seeds and pesticides group Syngenta on Wednesday. The largest ever foreign purchase by a Chinese firm, announced by both companies, will accelerate a shake-up in global agrochemicals and marks a setback for U.S. firm Monsanto, which failed to buy Syngenta last year.  REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Last year, ChemChina acquired Italian tire maker Pirelli in a $7.9 billion transaction. How will this influence Italy? 

Italy is a country of “crisis.” There has always been a shortage of liquidity because of corruption in the Italian government and a lot of money is wasted on “ghost projects.” The Italian government welcomes any type of foreign investment and why wouldn’t they? Pirelli made a good deal – the owners of the majority stock holders remain in charge, the investors (which were several banks) continued to maintain the stock into the company. China is a tremendous market, which continues to grow – it’s an amazing deal for the Italians.

China-based firm’s purchases of U.S. companies include: Haier Group’s $5.4 billion purchase of General Electric’s appliance business and Dalian Wanda Group’s $3.5 billion deal for Legendary Entertainment. Additionally, Astoria Waldorf has been acquired by China’s Anbang Insurance. How will these affect the United States? The world?

As the factory of the world, China’s actions are concerning many people. They may not necessarily have direct impact on their investments, but Western companies are going to react as a result of these acquisitions.

What a slowing economy really means to the West is – How many goods they are going to be able to sell China? China is already the type of economy where the citizens save quite a bit of their income. What will happen then?

 

 

The Future of News Media

Technology occasionally makes weird jumps back in time and reinvents different channels or mediums. This has happened recently with the trend of Conversational Commerce. What is it? Basically, conversational commerce tries not to build a business through a storefront, webshop or homepage. Instead, you build a business through a chat-interface – this means apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat or just the SMS application on your phone.

Another point to make is that the person on the other side of the message doesn’t have to be human. It could be anything from a program, robot, to a full-fledge AI. The most important aspect here is the chat. There are already a couple of news organizations that are using chat as a way of reaching their readers.

Quartz is an iPhone app in which users can receive news via a pre-programmed course of messages, which are sent to the reader. After every new message, the reader gets two possible answers to choose from – more details or trigger the next topic to be sent. The app also includes pictures, gifts and emojis!

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The New York Times has an election slack-bot that posts links to NYT articles about the election into a designated channel. You may think that this is just a cheap try of the NYT to get more clicks inside your slack team. However, the command “/asknytelection” allows you to send a question about the lection into the NYT newsroom. Thus, you can talk directly to a NYT journalist from inside your Slack team.

There has recently been some big news around WhatApp including they have 1 billion monthly active users and that it would stay free. This works out well because BBC covered the biggest democratic process in the world on WhatsApp and Wechat by distributing short text messages, pictures, audio and video clips. They even asked for feedback in the form of an emoticon.

Thus, I think that AI and platforms are going to be the two biggest trends for news media. Facebook announced a “business for messenger” and a secret API for developers and WhatsApp has similar plans.

The second trend—AI—is harder to really nail down. We won’t see an intelligent, news-serving AI explaining to the news in the near future, but we will see programs and bots supporting the work of journalists.

Maybe a robot, that automatically answers questions that a journalist has answered before? Or automatically serving us news, which an algorithm deemed relevant, based on our location data and likes?

Chipotle Really Does Appreciate Their Employees

Following the E. coli scare that landed 21 people in the hospital a few months ago, Chipotle closed all of their stores today for a national employee meeting. At this meeting they planned to “share information as to what may have caused some customers to become ill in 2015” as well as present an outline with “the steps that have been taken outside the restaurants to make Chipotle ingredients safer than ever.” The meeting was broadcasted live from Denver to various locations across the country so that all employees could attend. Stores re-opened nationally at 3pm.

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Steve Ellis, the Founder, Chairman, and co-CEO of Chipotle says, “We want [our employees] to know how much we appreciate their dedication to this critical mission.” I am impressed by how much Chipotle values their employees and it makes a strong statement for themselves publicly as well. There are a number of ways that company executives could have delivered this message to their associates without closing their stores – just like the processes for training on new equipment or menu items.

Fast food workers often have very little reason to choose one employer over another since they all have roughly the same low hour wage, so Chipotle is changing that. By closing the stores and truly soliciting employee feedback Chipotle’s management is then reaching out to strengthen employee relationships in a time when the scandal surrounding food safety may otherwise cause them to look for jobs at employers who aren’t in the press for such issues.

A Society for Human Resource Management’s Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement study, found that compensation and a sense of job security are the top two determinants of job happiness.  Creating a forum to make sure employees know the reasons why no more E. coli outbreaks are expected is a key way to rebuild that security, in an environment where presumably, employee questions and voices can be heard.

Third in the SHRM study in job happiness, incidentally, are issues related to work scheduling.  Presumably the all-hands meeting was selected for a date and time that works well for the vast majority of Chipotle employees. Yet, Chipotle’s strategy can also include discussions about scheduling every day as a way to keep employees engaged on even the most mundane days by giving them a voice in this more personal issue.

Other restaurant employers have taken these notions of employee engagement to heart by finding ways to distinguish themselves as potential employers of choice by giving employees a voice in collaboratively creating schedules that work for them every day of the year.

P.S. To apologize for being closed today, Chipotle is giving out free burritos.

The World’s Reaction to the Zika Virus

Everyone is clinging onto every bit of news released about the Zika virus and they should. It is a disease without an easy prevention strategy, no known cure and now everyone in the Americas is nervous because of the link between the virus and the neurological disorders in babies born to mothers infected during pregnancy.

The Zika virus was found in Brazil in May of 2015, but it was just on Monday that the international community stepped up and announced that the Zika virus’s associati download (6)on with birth defects is a “public health emergency of international concern.”

Since last May, when Zika first emerged in Brazil, more than 4,000 suspect cases of microcephaly have been reported in the country. Brazil’s total in previous years was only about 160 cases. However, the Zika virus has also been found in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and more than 25 countries and territories in the Americas region.

PAHO, who is WHO’s regional officer for the Americas has been working with affected countries since the first detection last year. They have been strengthening their abilities to detect the virus, gathering experts to assess current knowledge of the Zika virus and supporting efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.

As of now, prevention methods are using insect repellant, staying indoors behind screens and closed doors and wearing clothing that covers as much of the body as possible. One more prevention method is covering containers that hold water.

Mosquito-borne diseases like Zika virus are truly “problems without passports” that require cooperation among download (7)governments and sectors to keep people safe. This is especially important when there are no currently available universal prevention strategies – like a vaccine – and no known cures.

Margaret Chan, the head of WHO called independent health experts together this week to discuss how to come together as a global community to accelerate response and reduce the spread of the virus. This global platform is called International Health Regulations. After their meeting, they advised that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurologic disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, constitutes a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” and provided concrete advice to global and local actors to address.

Fundamentally, the spread of the Zika virus has also highlighted the need to make sure girls and women around the world have access to quality reproductive and sexual health care, including counseling during their pregnancies.

Do you feel like there is enough being done? Are you taking precautions for the Zika virus?

Help, My Phone Is Becoming My Brain

I’m sure that everyone has experienced this. You are with friends and despite the physical proximity, mentally and emotionally, we might as well have been on different planets. Beyond constantly looking at our phones, we were all living on our phones. They have become our operative consciousness, creating a virtual reality where our brain is not present – even when the screen is off. You cannot escape the world of work emails, Instagram, text messages, etc. Our phone is now our brain, controlling our reality.

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There is a real danger that the digital world and real world have morphed into one. It is hard for us to escape that digital consciousness and be present. We excited in meaningless conversations that are uninteresting and unsophisticated because our brains are still busy consuming the digital world. I think that our subconscious is under siege as well. Have you done the following? After you’ve consumed all the new content in Instagram, you click the home screen button and then on autopilot tap the Instagram button again unable to process in that moment there is nothing new to see. The result? A recent HBR story uncovered that Millennials are stressed when they’re around their phones, but also stressed by their absence.

My phone is an invaluable tool for many aspects of my life such as communication, media consumption, transportation and more. The phone is amazing at creating different worlds that allow me to sometimes escape my real life for a few minutes, which sometimes I really need.

I have tried many times to make a commitment to create separation between my real life and the digital world. I know that when I am on my phone, I will exist on my phone and appreciate the power of knowledge and convenience that it provides. When I am in real life, I will focus on being fully present and leaving my digital consciousness behind. They worlds will intersect some times, but I try to do my best to keep my digital world from distracting me from reality.

At a minimum, I will try to engage more deeply with the people around me, look up when I walk along the street and appreciate the detail that other humans have created. Otherwise, my phone is my life and I will wake up 50 years from now and the inevitable nearness of death will finally force my brain to exist in reality.  I will then, finally realize that I haven’t lived at all, my phone was my brain.   

How to Hire Millennials

Most people joining companies these days are of the millennial generation – born in the late 1980s and 1990s. They are also launching start-ups, transforming politics and devoting their efforts to social endeavors. Given this evolution, millennials will most likely be at the helm of leading organizations very soon.

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As human resources managers are working hard to attract and retain the talent of millennials, there has been hard work to try to identify defining characteristics of them. One of the most apparent characteristics of millennials is their attraction to technology and capacity to relate with one another through social networks. Beyond this, there are two more notable finds.

First, millennials are attracted to flexible work environments. They don’t believe that demands of work should mean sacrifices in their personal lives, or at least most of the time. Cohesive team-oriented structure is highly valued. They are more focused on productivity and getting the job done, which can usually be done from home.

Second, when choosing an employer, millennials are looking to companies that offer them opportunities for personal and professional development as well as a clear commitment to social responsibility policies. They are also very interest in fast-track promotion and a career abroad.

Some senior managers feel inhibited while working with millennials or just fear them. This is not something strange or new: Baby boomers were criticized by their pre-World War Two predecessors for their idealism and self-absorption; The beat generation in the 1960’s looked backwards in anger; The young leaders of the 1968’s riots in Paris and at many university campuses worldwide called for a revolution to defeat bourgeois institutions; More recently, the “indignados” and Occupy Wall Street components opposed today’s establishment. Indeed, intergenerational conflict is recurrent and cyclical.

However, I think that we can fix this with three steps so human resource managers, read carefully. Make sure that you nurture initiatives that promote cross-generational dialogue and understanding. The adoption of younger generations’ language and implementation of new ways of technology-supported communication would be very helpful. Promote cross-generational interaction – build diverse teams and introduce reverse coaching. Make sure to combine traditional face-to-face learning with new forms of technology in training and educational programs.

Millennials are going to help your company move forward so don’t be afraid of them. Embrace their attitude and adapt to their ways. Have you seen this happening at your company? What do you think?

McDonald’s As We Know It Will Change

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As humans are realizing how much junk food affects their health and rejects fast food restaurant, McDonald’s is trying to revamp its image. First, McDonald’s introduced salads to its menu, then there were McCafes and now they have a futuristic menu, fit with a futuristic environment in their Hong Kong franchise. I’m sure that you have even seen some slight changes in your very own local McDonald’s – some items are bumped off the menu and a more modern looking seating area, maybe the play area for children has even been removed.

The golden arches of McDonald’s are iconic, a symbol of America. They are even a strong part of the collective conscious around the world. Remember the long lines of people waiting for the first McDonald’s to open in Moscow in the 90s? The golden arches stand for fun, families and friendship. There are memories for every person connected to a McDonald’s and creating a new menu or restaurant will be hard to adjust to. I can remember the very first time that I went to McDonald’s as well as stopping there for breakfast during road trips, hanging out there late at night after a movie with my friends and even now, stopping in when I just can’t get a McFlurry off of my mind. Does McDonald’s simply have too much baggage to change?

There is no question that the pressure to change is very strong. However, the reinvention of such a large and iconic brand seems unimaginable. If McDonald’s does decide to change it’s brand on a worldwide scale, it would need to be significant changes to really make people think of McDonald’s as more of a healthy option rather than standing for fat and bad diets. One thing that I think that McDonald’s should hold onto are the colors and form of the golden arches. However, everything else will need to change from the original or else people will only think of the original.

Rejuvenating a brand is quite the balancing act. Knowing what to keep and what to let go of is a very important design challenge as well as understand how the implications will be perceived by old and new customers. What will McDonald’s decide to do in the future? We will have to wait and see. Would you be sad to see the iconic brand significantly change or are you in support of them embracing a healthier menu and updated atmosphere?

Fashion Goes Tech

The tech industry has kept every industry on its toes with its rapid innovation and fashion is no exception. It has been able to convince even the most stubborn luxury companies to embrace e-commerce while simultaneously allowing newer brands to keep costs low by not requiring a storefront. This new movement is utilizing new technologies to create custom, made to order garments for the average consumer.

download (3)In the 1900s, individual dressmakers or tailors who would make clothing and décor for aristocrats and royals dominated the clothing industry. Generally these were “made-to-order” so dressmakers rarely came up with their own ideas. Instead, they would create whatever the client requested. This was also a time when most women knew how to sew and would make garments for themselves and their families.

In 1848, Charles Frederick Worth became the first fashion designer – as women came to him for his designs instead of commissioning their own ideas. He also had connections within the textile industry, which gave him access to the most elaborate fabrics. His success as a designer opened up a whole new career for many people and gave rise to the designer names we know today. Note that these were still couture, made-to-order garments that required many fitting appointments and possibly weeks to months to produce.

In 1937, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted a study of women’s body measurements for the purpose of creating a standardized sizing system. This led to the opposite of couture: prêt-à-porter (ready to wear) standardized off-the-rack clothing.

Now there is a new movement of online-only made-to-order clothing that uses new technologies to bring us back to the careful craftsmanship and nonstandard sizing of pre-industrialization. A meeting with a tailor now utilizes quick shipping and computer vision to create custom made garments. Here are just a few of these companies:

  • FitzGerald Morrell (gloves): custom made gloves by sending the customer a quick fit sheet that includes a few instructions on measurements as well as tracing your hands on the included paper.
  • Margaux (women’s flats): similar to FitzGerald Morrell but for women’s flats. The fitting kit contains everything you need to take your measurements for your made-to-measure order. download (2)
  • Trumaker (men’s suits): measurements don’t occur online but they have a large network of “Outfitters” that will come to your home to make measurements then the suit styling is ordered online.
  • True & Co (women’s bras): Using large dataset for custom bra sizing for women by answering a questionnaire of how various brands fit you and where your pain points are.

Not only can this movement help alleviate some of the negative social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry, but it can also enable greater individualization as opposed to wearing whatever the industry decides is trendy. It may also help people develop a closer relationship with their clothing by purchasing it with greater intention via customization. The longer waiting period would hopefully encourage repairing and caring for clothing instead of throwing it in the garbage when a button falls off.

The Revolution of Philanthropy

I’ve realized that there has been a dramatic change in American philanthropy. The philanthropists aren’t waiting for politicians or businesses to solve the world’s pressing problems anymore. Federal debt, a miserable approval rating for Congress, Affordable Care Act that failed and many more failures by the government have rendered them useless in making philanthropic changes.

Now, Philanthropists are committing huge amounts of their own money to solve world challenges in health, education, job creation and the environment. In doing this, they are making the importance of philanthropy in society and across the world better known. How are they doing this? They are targeting their funds to achieve tangible results to properly demonstrate how they are making impactful changes in society.

I’m sure that you can think of a least one or two people that I’m talking about. It may have started with Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford, but now people like Bill Gats and Warren Buffet are igniting the philanthropic revolution. In 2000, Gates and his wife created a foundation that was worth $44 billion – half of his net worth. Then, Buffett announced in 2006 that he would contribute $30 billion of Berkshire Hathaway stock and have it managed by the Gates Foundation. Since 2000, the Gates Foundation has given away $39 billion to eradicate diseases in developing countries, help people emerge from poverty and improve education.

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Further, Bill and Melina Gates are far from “checkbook philanthropists.” They devote a lot of their time traveling the world for opportunities to make a difference with their funds. Their focus on overcoming disease, improving education and lobbying for initiatives in climate change is making an impact. They even have an organization of 1,200 people who manage their grants.

In 2011, they decided to recruit other philanthropists by launching, “The Giving Pledge.” Four years later and they have persuaded 141 wealthy couples and individuals to give away at least 50% of their fortunes. This is a strong indication of the growing power of philanthropy.

Millennials have even caught on – Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan gave $100 million to schools in Newark, New Jersey, $120 to schools in the Bay Area and 18 million Facebook shares to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. At the end of last year they also announced that they would give away 99% of their Facebook stock – valued at $45 billion. They even decided to make these contributions through a limited liability company to have more flexibility to make grants, lobby for causes and invest in ideas.

The magnitude of giving by these philanthropists is a turning point in society. In 2016, philanthropy is going to stand alongside government and business as one of the most powerful forces influencing social change.

A Recap of President Obama’s Digital Dominance

“Link in profile” and “Follow me on Snapchat” are new words out of a President’s mouth. However, those are words that President Obama uttered. His presence on social media has been a documented success. The President’s social media resume is even mimicked a digital marketing agency. The Obama administration used Flickr, Instagram and Vine for his personal profiles. In 2015, Obama became the first sitting president to get his own Twitter feed and Facebook page. And yes, the White House even joined Snapchat.

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However, I think that Obama’s recent interview on YouTube was the final example of his influence in society and how he has transitioned politics into a digital branding game. From his popular Reddit AMA to #POTUSplaylists, here is how Obama’s approach to social media changed the White House for good.

President Obama has the most liked picture on Facebook and is the most-liked world leader on Facebook, as well as on Twitter. In 2015, Obama even used a selfie stick to film an Obamacare ad with Buzzfeed. Just a few days later, the video had been viewed more than 50 million times.

Let’s back up to Obama’s YouTube interview on Friday. This is the second time that he has answered crowd-sourced questions in this format. Questions ranged from topics like police brutality, the state administered luxury tax on female goods and even his thoughts on Donald Trump. The second year of Obama’s YouTube live stream reinforced much more than his adaptability to trying new things, it identified the audience he felt was important and how to go about approaching them.

Politically, Obama’s online presence had a direct effect on fundraising and campaign support. In just four years, between the Election of 2008 and the Election of 2012, Barack Obama’s Facebook jumped from 2.3 million likes to 32.3 million likes. That is a jump of 30 million! Ultimately, Obama raised $500 million in 2008 with $403 of which was raised online. In the Election of 2012, his campaign would raise $504 million online out of a total $690 million.

We haveve seen there is an absolute need for social media when campaigning for presidency. Barack Obama’s administration has solidified a digital presence as not just a tactic to gain popularity, but a duty for the next POTUS. Which candidate do you think can carry Obama’s social media torch?

 

6 Words to Learn from Silicon Valley

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I think that everybody can agree that there is a completely different culture in the tech capital of the world. They make every business in any field smarter and more competitive. Because of this, I think that the rest of us can learn from them.

  1. MVP

This stands for “minimum viable product.” The idea is that instead of starting with a complicated new product or idea, figure out what the minimum is that you can create that will generate sales. This is the strategy to get something to market quickly, start gaining revenue and get feedback from real users.

2. Failing Fast

If you’re going to fail, you want to fail fast so you can move onto the next thing. With the MVP model, tech startups can see which products and features work, which don’t and change quickly and inexpensively. They don’t waste time and money perfecting something that people don’t even want.

3. Iterating

Adding new features, removing ones that don’t work make Product 2.0 and more. This goes from everything from apps to smart phones in the tech world, but it can really be applied to any business sector as well. Don’t stop at the first version just because it works, keep improving on any idea to make the absolute best product possible.

4. Standing Meetings

Tech companies shake up the traditional trappings of the corporate world like long, sit-down meetings. Try instituting stand-up meetings to keep things brief, relevant, creative and flowing. Think about the time and money that you will save if your meetings are more efficient and effective.

5. Agile

This project management methodology focuses on empowering team members to make decisions and break projects down into manageable chunks. The major emphasis is on communication and coordination rather than planning and control. Usually, a team will meet every two weeks to discuss progress on the project, changes and what the nest steps are to move forward. Every team member knows what their task is, but has the power to make decisions. I think that this top-down approach will help empower employees to have more control over their own work.

6. Culture

Google is famous for the perks it offers its employees. They choose to do it because they know that they demand a lot from their employees and value their productivity. I think that more businesses should treat employees as valuable assets like this.

What do you think, has your business implemented any of these practices?

What is the Future of the Work Life?

This week, I found myself wondering about what work will be like in 20 years. The tech industry is a leading example of what millennials want out of their jobs and the government will ultimately have to play in this new labor paradigm.

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I previously wrote about how everything is being uberized and jobs don’t fall short either. I see jobs becoming easy, fast and reliable just like grocery shopping, home cleaning, legal advice – all offering on demand service.

Uber is at a $62.5 billion valuation, just more proof that this new economy model isn’t going anywhere any time soon. However, there is concern about the rights of the people delivering these services and how the government should be protecting them. This has all reminded me of Metallica vs. Napster.

Once the music industry adapted to the delivery model users organically migrated to, the battle winded down. The industry needed an easier and faster option to survive and that is exactly what is going on now. We are turning to a model of decentralized, independent, self-managing labor and it won’t be long until the government adapts just like the music industry did.

Companies are spending millions of dollars to figure out ways to hold onto their millennial employees who just want to be challenged and in movement. The big focus point is that millennials value experiences over owning things, which translates into every aspect of their lives. I believe that you need to offer self-management and independence to millennials because that is the ultimate benefit in their eyes.

Freelancers have been around for a long time, but by their 30s they are sucked into full time employment by the security and stability. They are forced to live a life that they don’t want because of healthcare and retirement. I think that it is possible to make changes that will allow freelancers to work how they want to and have a peace of mind.

These dependencies are only working now for companies trying to hold on to the old paradigm. However, with the on-demand work model picking up, the government is going to have to come up with better ways to include these workers. I think that companies will need to adapt too – full time employment will become flexible, location agnostic, benefit oriented and more. Where do you see the job market going? What about your own job?

Learning Culture v. Language

Learning languages is difficult and unless you have a special talent for them, chances are that you will never sound like a native speaker. A few months ago, I published what languages I thought were most important to learn. However, now I think that there is more than language that we have to learn. I believe that what is really important is learning how to interact with other cultures.

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The acceleration of technology has a big part in why I am saying this. I think that technology will erase language barriers in the next five to 10 years. Google Translate has done a great job at removing most of the barriers of the written word, but sometimes with hilarious results. New generations of smart phone apps will do the same for our verbal communication in short order.

This breakdown of language barriers will increase the importance of cross-cultural understanding – they will be the fault lines of the future. Make sure that you spend your time reading books by foreign authors, following the news of different countries, reading the op-eds sections of major foreign newspapers. Overall, you are going to need to understand world events from someone else’s view. Go out and explore the world if you can, backpacking by yourself and meeting people in hostels can really open your eyes to the world and the people in it.

If children can, they should learn foreign languages as they are growing up. Learning foreign languages at a young age builds up synapses in the brain and helps the mind grow. If you have the ability to raise kids in a household with multiple languages, pursue it. If you are in your 20s or later and looking to learn another language to get you further in your career, your efforts are probably better spent elsewhere.

Study cultures from other points of view. The more that you know about different regions of the world, the better off you will be. I guarantee that going forward, everyone’s job is going to get much more globalized than we expect.

What has your experience been so far? Did you start in a role based in your country and have to communicate with those somewhere else? Are you an expat now, yourself? Please, comment below and tell me if you agree or disagree.

The Future with VR and AR

Virtual and augmented reality have been all the talk the past year and I find myself…along with investors pondering – are they even real? I understand that it is tough to understand the vision for VR without experiencing it. This technology is especially difficult for all of us to grasp because it has to be delivered one a one-on-one basis.

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Hardware

There is actually a high volume and variety of VR headsets in production that range from the basic Google Cardboard to Gear VR, along with Chinese competitors like Oculus, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. On the AR side, there is Magic Leap, DAQRI and HoloLens among some others. There will most likely be a monopoly in this category, while there are also supporting technologies like eye-tracking and haptic feedback expanding as well.

Content

This past year, we saw headset companies make huge investments in niche VR content producer to drive mainstream consumer adoption beyond gaming. Media companies and Hollywood studios are even jumping into VR content. VR producers are even getting overwhelmed and forced to outsource content creation to visual effects studios like ILM and Weta Digital.

Until there are tools to democratize content creation, content will remain in the hands of niche players that can’t meet the demand. Over time, this will change – media companies will bring VR content creation capabilities in-house. For now, VR producers are maximizing their long-term value by turning themselves into distribution companies and developing their own IP.download (2)

Software

Software enables tools and apps for content creation and discovery – just like in the PC and mobile eras. In the next few years, as headsets come to market, it will be the VR and AR software that will create the most value.

Investors in AR and VR are going to be those who are looking for a transformative opportunity that cannot be displaced by something that is incrementally better. To find the right opportunities within VR and AR, one must understand where this ecosystem is going and be able to identify the technologies and teams that will advance the industry.

Time travel, teleportation and immortality will be within our reach with VR and AR – as well as many other things that we have only imagined. I am very excited to watch VR and AR pioneer the next computing era.

What do you know about VR and AR? Are you just excited as I am?

Developed & Emerging Markets – Where Do They Stand?

Ever since the term, BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India & China) was created in 2002 by Goldman Sachs, the story of global growth has been emerging markets. Russia was driven by oil and Brazil by commodities, China and India were driven by demographic dividends in their immense populations. However, things have changed in the past three years.

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In 2008, the Lehman crisis put the developed markets in a precarious condition. Debt soared, liquidity tightened, growth collapsed and the global GDP trend shifted out of the developed markets and into the emerging markets. As the share of emerging markets started rising, the share of developed markets started falling. In 2009, emerging markets accounted for 35% of global GDP, while developed markets accounts for 42%. In 2013, emerging markets accounted for 48% and developed markets accounted for 32%.

While the U.S. grappled with low inflation and the EU was occupied with the problem in Greece, things took a sharp shift in favor of developed markets. There was clearly a lot of pressure on emerging markets. As liquidity dried up in U.S. markets, commodity producers suffered. The oil and commodity slowdown just made it all worse. In 2015, the share of emerging markets in the global GDP was down to 34%, but the share of developed markets finally increased to 43%.

I think that this trend is going to become more pronounced in favor of developed markets in 2016. India, China and Mexico will still be the fastest growing economies. However, other emerging markets are going to pay a price for the fall in China’s growth. The US, Canada, UK, Japan and Germany will most likely grow by 2%.

As the US creates record jobs, the EU gets growth back, Russia and Brazil will probably suffer from the weak commodity prices and bad policy decisions. That means that between the slowing of China and negative growth from Brazil and Russia, the emerging markets are going to have a rough year. 2016 may be the year that developed markets get back on track.

What do you predict will happen?

Does the Head of Diversity Have to Be a Certain Race?

Pinterest hired Candice Morgan as their first-ever head of diversity. This announcement was made shortly after Twitter hired Jeffrey Siminoff, a gay, white man to be their head of diversity, replacing a white woman. Although he previously led diversity efforts at Apple, where diversity is less than ideal and was the defendant for Morgan Stanley when they were in the middle of a racial discrimination lawsuit, people were upset that he was not black.

Back to Morgcandice-morgan-head-of-diversity-e1452030834818an. She has over ten years of experience building diverse work environments through her work at Catalyst, so it is safe to say that Pinterest did not hire Morgan because of the color of her skin. Is she more justified for the diversity role because of her skin color?

I don’t think that there is an answer of who has to fill a diversity role. Some have argued that diversity needs to start at the top and be a priority for every single employee. It also may be the case of needing to factor in the entire employee base at the company to be as effective as possible.

Pinterest has taken some additional efforts. They have launched two programs, The Pinterest Apprenticeship Program and Pinterest Engage for engineers from non-traditional tech backgrounds or underrepresented backgrounds.

The apprenticeship program is for people with traditional backgrounds in things like computer science to see what it is like to be an engineer at Pinterest. The apprenticeships are a year long with an opportunity for long-term employment at the end.

Pinterest Engage is a summer internship program that lasts eight weeks for first-year college students from underrepresented backgrounds that are already studying computer science, computer engineering, software engineering and other related majors.

However, according to a recent study, diversity initiatives can be threatening to white people. They don’t necessarily help someone from an underrepresented group to feel more included or less at risk for discrimination. The study claims that it would be better to employ data-driven, research-based strategies with measurable goals, which is something Pinterest is working on with diversity and inclusion strategy startup Paradigm.

Their goals with Paradigm are to increase hiring rates for full-time engineering roles to 30 percent female, increase hiring rates for full-time engineers to 8 percent from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds; increase hiring rates for non-engineering roles to 12 percent from underrepresented backgrounds; and implement a Rooney Rule requirement where at least one person from an underrepresented background and one female candidate is interviewed for every open leadership position.

What do you think of Pinterest and their initiatives?

Will Tablet Magazines Survive?

On January 6, magazine editors from across the country met at Columbia University to determine the winners of the 2016 National Magazine Awards and something pretty remarkable happened. They didn’t have to pretend that tablet magazines are worth of celebration.

The American Society of Magazine Editors is the professional organization that administers the National Magazine Awards. You may have heard of them, known as the ASMEs or Ellies. First, they gave National Geographic the Calder elephant in the Tablet Edition category in 2012. The next year, they won the renamed category, Tablet Magazine, as well as the next year and the next, and the next. However, ASME chose to retire the category this year.

download (1)ASME does review and change its award categories regularly, but the end of the tablet category feels much more significant. It is a quiet acknowledgment of the industry’s failure to innovate. While tablets do not sell like smart phones, there are a lot of them out there. Actually, 45 percent of U.S. adults owned a tablet compared to 68 percent who own a smart phone – from a study by the Pew Research Center.

In 2015, ASME’s call for entries said that “tablet magazines need not duplicate the frequency of content of sibling print editions.” In reality, tablet magazines did have to duplicate print editions. This is because the Alliance for Audited Media sets the rules for how magazines report circulation and rate base, the average circulation level that determines ad rates. AAM determined that tablet magazines could be included in the rate base, which means that they are counted for advertising purposes only if they included “all the same editorial content as in the print.”

So basically, magazines could include enhanced content suitable for tablets like videos or interactive elements, but only on top of the magazine’s original editorial, art and ads “presented in a manner consistent with the print issue.” Sadly, innovation is just costly and just bad for business. In order for the user to even access the content, the user had to remember to open the newsstand once a month and download a huge file…who would really bother?

How do you prefer to read magazine articles? Do you click on them from emails in your browser, open apps on your phone or download PDFs on your tablet? I hope that the Alliance for Audited Media reviews their rules to allow for proper innovation in this industry.

The Value of Education

There is an on-going debate over whether college is worth the investment. Does it really equal the size of a certain paycheck? The real issue is that a college degree is one of the greatest, if not the greatest determining factor in social mobility.

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Education has accelerated in the 20th century and social mobility has climbed along with it. College education has driven economic success and social changes in the 1960’s and 70’s as well as producing technological marvels at an astounding pace.

Today, research universities have changed the type of people that they are producing for the workforce. Now, we are creating entirely new industries with these new ideas and technologies. Graduates enter the economy with a different type of knowledge to drive scientific discovery, technological invention and understand the fields that will guide us forward. With these cutting-edge ideas, products and processes, creativity and discovery are normal in our marketplace. This is not only boosting graduate’s personal success, but also the competitiveness to succeed at innovation.

If you take a broader look at the issue with your economics cap on, the post-industrial economy grew from a large group of college-educated thinkers and dreamers. The $18 trillion economy in the United States is not a result of improvements on the worlds of the past. This is the complete result of highly creative technology developments that alter who we are as species. We utilize biotechnology, nanotechnology and communications technology to produce unprecedented economic and social change.

Educational attainment drives class structure, medical outcomes, social welfare outcomes, children’s success and democratic participation. The education level is really even a predictor of life span. The benefits of higher education are incredibly larger for the economic win rather than the individual. Educational attainment has drastically changed how the world works, lives, mobilizes, communicates and survives.

The executive, pilot and surgeon have tools that they rely on and staff that they work with – all products of higher education. Not to mention that they rely on college graduates to manage their retirement funds, serve as pediatricians to their kids, inspect the food they eat and clean the water that they drink.

What do you think about college education? How necessary is it? What changes need to be made? There are countless arguments that can be stemmed from this topic so please tell me, which arguments matter most to you and your future?

Scheduled Tweets Aren’t the Same

Surprisingly or not surprisingly, a large number of companies got confused with their 24-hour clock on the last day of 2015. Instead of tweets and other social media messages going out at midnight on January 31st, they programmed them for midday on December 31 or January 1 – opening themselves up for some ridicule. As someone who has been using social media over the past few years, pre-programming content is not a good idea.

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The Internet is full of mistakes that range from being tragic to funny, however they all give the same impression. The face is that if a company, brand or celebrity cannot be bothered to manage its social media in real time, then it does not understand what is going on in the world. Social media is meant to be a two-way conversation, but tools like these are making social media just like billboards and magazine advertisements.

It is like throwing a bottle into the sea with a message in it and thinking that everything will be the same once it is found this is the problem with brands and their social media today. There will be no news of the impact to change the dynamics of a conversation, lacks context, thinking it won’t affect your company’s reputation and that your words are immediately forgotten. Once your message is out there, it is out there so make it worth it.

My advice is to keep control of communication and above all, do things sincerely. Find people within your industry with something to say and establish a genuine conversation. Let’s not forget that we use social media for awareness, to connect with our consumers and to listen to what they are saying. When you compensate the last two reasons, then your social media efforts are doing little for you and your brand.

Using scheduling tools can be very convenient and I do want to say that they are useful in situations such as live events – instead of posting details or guests as well as photos and quotes of everyone having fun, you can most certainly have some of the important information surround the event scheduled as you wrap up last minute concerns.

Overall, I am writing to remind you to be aware of how you are managing your conversations on social media and to evaluate if you are having real conversations or not – make sure that it is always a two-way street.

Universities in Competition like Start-ups

Entrepreneurship is no doubt the new “hot” thing to do. With the millennial generation more determined than ever to create their own path, colleges and universities have pressure to support creative thinking and innovation for wannabe entrepreneurs. How are they doing it?

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For example, Rice University offers academic courses in entrepreneurship strategy and financing, extracurricular start-up workshops and a summer program for students who want to start companies. Just this past August, they announced a multimillion-dollar “entrepreneurship initiative” to develop even more courses and programs in the subject.

Ten years ago, offering a few entrepreneurship courses, workshops and clubs might have suffice. However, now undergraduates have a sullen job market to dreadfully look forward to, while being inspired by billion-dollar success stories from Silicon Valley. They don’t want to go to university for one subject; they want to know how to convert their ideas into business or nonprofit ventures.

The race is on for top universities to support their students want to “innovate and disrupt.” Many are trying to create rich entrepreneurial ecosystems that were first established by Stanford and M.I.T. This includes academic courses, practical experience and an extended alumni advisory network.

As an example, Princeton offers a variety of entrepreneurship courses. But, in a report released in May, a university advisory committee concluded that Princeton had fallen behind competing schools that had made “major upgrades” to their programs. Amongst other issues, the report stated that Princeton had allotted “only 1,500 square feet” for student incubator and accelerator programs, “whereas Cornell has 364,000; Penn 200,000; Berkeley 108,000; Harvard 30,000; Stanford 12,000; Yale 7,700; N.Y.U. 6,000; and Columbia 5,000.” In November, Princeton celebrated the opening of a 10,000-square-foot Entrepreneurial Hub near campus. The university is also starting a summer internship program in Manhattan so that students can spend time at young companies.

The growth in campus entrepreneurship is clear, administrators say. In 1985, college campuses in the United States offered only about 250 courses in entrepreneurship, according to a recent report from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which finances entrepreneurship education and training. In a study from 2013, more than 400,000 students were taking such courses. I am confident that this number has grown exponentially in the past two years as well.

I am in support of entrepreneurial education because I think that having an innovative mindset can make someone an asset to any company. Even if these student’s ventures fail and they end up working for someone else, they will be better workers, no doubt.

Free Basics, Net Neutrality & Economic Discrimination

Free Basics – formerly, Internet.org is Facebook’s initiative to provide free, but limited Internet to the developing world. Last week, the Times of India reported that India’s telecom body asked Facebook’s partner, the wireless carrier Reliance, to cease the service while it determines whether operators should be able to price their services based on content.

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Mark Zuckerberg emerged from his paternity leave to pen an op-ed article in the English-language daily. Basically, he can’t believe that India isn’t grateful for it. I, myself am still deciding whose side I am now, but let’s take a look at his response to figure it out.

The first time I breezed through his article, I could pick up on the annoyance. On the second read, I realized how Zuckerberg sees India, where about a billion people are not connected to the Internet, as backwards for even questioning Facebook’s charitable endeavor.

“Who could possibly be against this?” he asks passive-aggressively. “Surprisingly, over the last year there’s been a big debate about this in India.”

Even though net neutrality is an issue in the United States as well, Zuckerberg makes it more of a first-world problem, such that it doesn’t apply to India because limited service is better than no service. Net neutrality activists are arguing that Facebook and its telecom partners are gatekeepers, deciding which websites can be accessed for free. While Facebook could add more telecom partners to open up the number of sites and services Free Basics users could use for free, it only has one partner in India.

Zuckerberg does acknowledge that Free Basics does not provide people with access to the full web, but sees it as a step in the right direction. He claims that half of the people that come online for the first time by using Free Basics, buy full internet access within 30 days.

He even tells the story of a farmer named Ganesh, who uses the free Internet service to check weather updates and commodity prices. He asked, “How does Ganesh being able to better tend his crops hurt the internet?”

Something that Zuckerberg failed to address is that zero-rated services like Free Basics amount to economic discrimination – poor Internet for poor people. In the Times of India in October, net-neutrality advocacy group Savetheinternet.in quoted Tim Berners-Lee, father of the internet, as saying: Economic discrimination is just as harmful as technical discrimination, so [internet service providers] will still be able to pick winners and losers online.” Facebook’s walled garden could very well determine the sites and services that will succeed in India.

What do you think?

 

The Chinese Economy Will Turn Around

The Chinese economy has had an incredibly difficult year. Between the dramatic sell-off in the Shanghai stock exchange and their weakening GDP numbers, it has just been a constant flow of bad news from China. There has also been some negative statistics that are fueling concerns that China’s legendary success of pushing over 300 million people out of poverty over the last 30 years is coming to an end.

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Besides economic troubles, China has also been facing pollution and other environmental challenges. A World Bank Study actually states that only 1 percent of China’s 560 million city dwellers breathe safe air. There is also a looming property bubble and the fact that their country de-prioritizes democratic principles, but let’s keep the focus of this to economics.

By some estimates, China’s GDP growth rates are hovering below the minimum 7 percent per annum that is required to double per capital incomes in one generation. However, there are factors that suggest a rebound is about to occur. Public policymakers are planning to further cut interest rates, encourage bank lending by reducing the reserve requirement and increase public investment.

China is managing the three main drivers of growth – capital, labor and productivity in a way that supports long-term prospects. The relaxing of the one child policy back in October was quite a surprise. It was originally introduced in 1979 to slow the population growth rate – it is estimated to have prevented around 400 million births. Now, 90 million couples are eligible to have two children.

The country also has plans to increase the number of cities with a population of 1 million from around 10 today to 221, as well as the cities with 10 million people from 5 to 8 by 2025. A more urban population is the key piece of their strategy to move from an investment led, export based economy toward a consumption based urbanized growth. This will help the Chinese avoid a middle-income trap.

A lot is at stake. Over the past few decades, China has become a major and main trading partner and source of foreign direct investment for developed and developing countries. They are the largest foreign lender to the U.S. government and the biggest source of foreign direct investment to Australia, as well as the largest trading partner and source of infrastructure for emerging countries such as Brazil and South Africa.

Needless to say, China has an enormous vested interest in avoiding an economic slump.